Effie Gray


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Effie poster small.jpg

Okay, so the poem below shows that I would have been much happier

going to see the film based on the Ruskin/ Millais/ Effie relationships

rather than mooning over Magic in the Moonlight, an anodyne feel-good

fantasy.  I haven’t seen Emma Thompson’s latest script, but it surely

must have more psychological depth to it than the Chantilly froth which

curdled any baristic attempt to recreate the creamy caffeine reference to

the era of You’re the Tops.  Incidentally, the film opens with an illusionist

show set in 1928, which was the year that Hold Everything!- the musical

whose most famous list song I have just referenced was first staged on


I have thought about writing some satirical lyrics: You’re the Pits!

John McEnroe could sing them.

John McEnroe Roland Garros 2012.JPG

Anyway, here’s something for those interested in a psychological

study of neurosis and sexual repression.  You can listen to a man

talking to himself.  Imagine the horror he would have

experienced had he found a hair in his bath!


They thought I was in contemplative mood

when I gazed at those lichens and bubbles.

In fact, non-consummation makes one brood.

Damned rain exacerbated our troubles.

Effie assiduously sewed red cloth,

her hair crowned with a garland of foxgloves,

while Everett circled her like a moth,

the pair of them billing like turtle doves.

You’d look like a hyena if your wife

was trailing around the Trossachs like that.

You’d feel that you could take a palette knife

to the one against whom she leant and sat

for hours, reading Dante, while he drew.

And, having him cooped up in that snuff box,

tickling her with fern- as if I misconstrue.

His doodles made me uncomfortable.

He’d come in damp from studying these rocks,

clutching his oils, sepia ink, sable

brushes, teasing her, calling her Countess.

She even trimmed his hair for him one night,

collecting the blonde curls on The Witness,

some Edinburgh newspaper, not quite

read by William, or myself.  And his hand

was bandaged because the fool had injured

it, trying to make unstable stones stand

in the stream, for her to cross.  I’d endured

enough by then.  I watched the salmon leap

in Glenfinlas waterfall and pondered

what was being sown and what would be reaped.

They played battledore in the barn, wandered

the moors and bogs.  He said chilly mountains

made him love soft, warm breathing bodies and

all the while it incessantly rained- rains!

Do they think because they are in Scotland

the normal marriage vows do not apply;

that they can shelter under a shared plaid

and return soaking with another lie?

The bubbles have all burst, I’m afraid.

I stand in the midst of this turbulence.

Passions, torrent roars: I counter silence.

Magic in the Moonlight


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Magic in the Moonlight poster.jpg

Back from Paris.  Only managed a rather saccharine Woody Allen film:

Magic in the Moonlight.  The French subtitles were the most interesting

feature of the viewing experience Much was obscured in translation,

and I was fascinated by what was lost.  I don’t think the audience

picked up on the Dickensian and Shakespearean references, even

though we were not exactly in the banlieus.  This led to stifled snorts

when we- my belle-soeur et moi- twigged some little blague or other

and the French remained tres serieux, not noticing the elephant on the

screen, as it were.

African Bush Elephant.jpg

I am still amazed that one of my adult neighbours in The Charente had

not heard of Wimbledon, or, indeed, The Bard.  La France Profonde.

The opening of Act Five of The Merchant of Venice it wasn’t.  Loved the

old Alfa Romeo, though.  Preferred it to the ageing Romeo, aka Colin

Firth, who appeared deeply embarrassed throughout, as well he might.

At least he didn’t have to replicate any wet shirt moments. If he had,

then at least he would have dried off pretty quickly in that part of the

world.  They could have got him one of those vintage scratchy woollen

maillots that sagged in elephantine folds when soaked by the vagues,

They protected one’s modesty, while making one look ridiculous.

Eh bien, I know that by the use of that pretentious adjective to describe

the water-retentiveness of the aforementioned garment that I’m just

trying to extend the Jumbo/ Dumbo metaphors.  But, seriously, Colin’s

aunt could probably have knitted him one in her copious free time- when

she wasn’t drinking and driving recklessly, as aged rellies apparently did

back then.

The old bat seemed to have been a bit of a juvenile raver in her

flapperish youth.  The plot suggests that she paid the ultimate

price of her libertinarianism (she had probably bathed au naturel) by

having been jilted.  Good time girls were not marriageable material,

though she clearly had compensation from the married man.  Maybe

the villa?  Because you’re worth it.

I couldn’t help wondering what her string of pearls was worth in old

money?  Anyway, they were probably destined to find their serpentine

way round the cygnet-like neck of the cling-on before too many moons

had waned and you didn’t have to be Madame Blavatsky to make that


Thought Eileen Atkins was the kind of aunt anyone could wish for.  Or

at least her villa would have been an attractive place to head for in the

school holidays, but only if there was unlimited access to the Alfa.  I

don’t think one would have wanted to be whirled down any of the

Corniches if she had been behind the wheel, as subsequent events

were to prove.

Alfa Romeo logo

Oui, unless one’s E111 equivalent is up to date, a trip to Urgences

(Casualty, not a village perche) can be assez chere, even for whiplash.

I don’t think they had E111s in those days, let alone seat belts, or

air bags, but you’d probably have been okay. Just mention the aunt:

in French.

The aunt would have mobilised another rescue car.  She evidently

wasn’t short of a sou or two and she must have arranged for her

prestidigitarian nephew and his predatory ingenue to be rescued

from the observatory, as they managed  to return Chez Tante with

no visible taxi service after the orage. That was when the starry-

eyed duo’s relationship was initiated by a coup de foudre.

Don’t you just adore the obvious metaphor??!

Maybe she could have hired a fawning relative as a chauffeur for the

duration- chauffeuse??  Would have beaten taking a student job in

a transport cafe in good old Blighty.

Anyway, one felt a little sorry- but not too much- for the millionaire

ukelele- playing buffoon who was grooming the ingenue.  No amount

of Worth frocks could have enticed or seduced a girl to shack up with

a richer version of George Formby.  The price for having led him up the

garden sentier was probably a lifelong requirement to check the Roman

blinds were permanently down in the bedroom, especially when the

window cleaner arrived and a need to hurry past all street corners lit

by heritage lamp-posts.  It would probably be easier on one’s nerves

to return the frocks, jewellery and promissory billets-doux.

Tried to be a good aunt myself.  Took a brief trip to Le Vesinet to assist

The Nephew with his A-level English Literature.  No, he is not sitting the


Right, tell me the texts you are studying.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Fine.  (Gulp!)

Lady Chatterleys Lover.jpg

Oh well, better initiate him into the mysteries.  Look what happened to

poor old Ruskin, as no one informed him of certain basics of the female


Returned home and caught up with Brassica and co.  They’d been to see

Effie Gray, the film whose script was written by Emma Thompson.  Would

be interesting to see if she handles the metaphor more subtly.

It reminded me that I should re-blog my Ruskin poem- the one where the

great art critic is standing in the falls at Brig O’ Turk- probably inviting

rheumatism- and his rival in love, Millais, is painting him while engaging

Effie in some Life Classes.

Will post it next!

Shakin’ That Ass


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Silver Mirror Disco Ball for Parties DJs Discos Large Party Glitter Ball - 200mm

And now please welcome witty and glitzy raconteuse, Candia Dixon-Stuart

and her gorgeous gigolo partner, Pasha Kovalev.  Tonight they will be

twerking to…

It was really difficult to negotiate those stairs with the strobe lighting

which flickered from the glitter ball almost inducing an epileptic fit in me.

Without my varifocals I was entirely relying on Pasha’s supporting arm to

deliver me safely to the sprung floor.

Claudia Winkleman.jpg

Claudia blinked vacantly at me from under her veritable thatch of a fringe.

Her pale lippy gave her a look of rigor mortis- more so than The Human

Ironing Board‘s dazzling smile.

The orchestra struck up our number: I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister

Kate.  I truly wished that a member of our Suttonford sorority could have

stood in my shoes, whether she shared a name with The Duchess of

Cambridge, or not.  Come to think of it, Pippa would not suffer from

such self-doubt. I bet she could shake her rear spoiler to good effect.

Pippa Middleton.jpg

Maybe she will be invited on the show, if she is not too busy babysitting…

Watershed, or not, our song referenced some murdered brothel madam

called Kate Townsend- but not many people would have known that.

Oh well, I would just have to try to shake my beading to its Pixie limit.

I adopted my promenade position.

It was all over in a flash.  Pasha had to carry me over to Tess, who

brushed a few sequins from my shoulder.

Put her down, Pasha, she hissed.  You’ll do yourself an injury!

Ohhh, Candia, darling!  All the boys are going wild over sister Katie’s

style.  Unfortunately...here Bruno fell onto the floor, laughing, and

had to grab Len’s arm to hoist himself back into his chair...you are not

called Kate, are you?  Maybe you were adopted.  He pursed his lips in a

pseudo pout which anyone could tell was ironic, nay sarcastic.

Clearly I won’t be invited to one of his all-night parties with Elton John.

Darcy tried to be kind:

Wow, Candia.  You came out here and owned that floor.  Pasha gave

you a really challenging routine and you…Well, if you could develop your

core strength more and fully extend your arms, finishing your lines..She

concluded lamely, reaching for her empathetic ‘five‘.  Basically that

was the equivalent of a negative number from Craig’s arsenal.

Len Goodman 1.JPG

We were now under Len’s lens.  I think our lift was legal, but he clearly

was not going to pickle his walnuts.  Instead he reached under the table

and produced his maracas.

You see, it takes some time for the seeds to pass across to the solid wall

of the coconut shell, so you have to anticipate the beat.  He demonstrated

by waving them over his head and saying, Um cha cha; um cha cha!

It was as clear as mud.

You came out and gave it some welly, but it looked as if you were wearing

gumboots while you were at it, he added, a trifle unkindly.  It was one of

his more moody evenings, clearly.

I blushed under the fake tan.  Pasha gripped my arm.  Keep smiling, he


To reference the original song, Craig drawled, you didn’t shimmy like a jelly

on a plate, darling.  You did, however, look as if you were in a trance.  I’ve

seen more successful posterior rotation in a Renault advert.  Your left hand

was positively splayed and your performance was nothing less than

flat-footed. Strictly-speaking, Betty Grable you were not.

I wanted to remonstrate that I hadn’t been able to get my orthotic insoles

into the high-heeled shiny slippers, but they would have thought I was just

trying for a sympathy vote, so I desisted and I will never know how I got up

those stairs, trying to shield my bouncing bosoms with my non-splayed hand

from an overhead camera which zoomed in on cleavage.

Claudia was rabbiting on about getting permission to use someone else’s


Please, please, I mimed desperately.  I didn’t want to be in the dance-off.

Actually, I didn’t want to be there at all.  I knew my bum looked big in my

outfit.  The massive peacock feather tail didn’t help.  I’d told them peacocks

were unlucky, but they just told me to break a leg.  And I nearly did!

The scores were in.  No ‘seven’ from Len.  A predictable ‘five‘ from Darcy.

Bless.  Bruno stole a sidelong glance at Len and replicated his score.

Craig produced a card I had never seen before.  It said minus two.

He was obviously feeling generous.

Bottom of the leader board.  How embarrassing!  However, my public

may save me.  I may live to fight another day and that glamorous natural

mover who keeps scoring nines and tens may be on her way out.

I thought I was going to faint.  Pasha caught me in his arms.  It was

all worth it!

Dancing for us next week is…

But as my eyes re-focussed, I saw the shadowy outline of The Husband

bearing my morning cuppa.  He didn’t look anything like Pasha, even with

his shirt off.

What’s wrong? he asked solicitously.  You were muttering something about


Hmmm, I replied.  It takes two, babe.  Thanks for the tea.

He plumped up my pillows and I tried to sit up, but something was irritating

me.  I was sitting on a sequin.  Weird!

Ah well., at least when I go into Costamuchamoulah must-seen cafe I won’t

be besieged by boa-toting women shrieking, Keep Dancing!

Instead of shaking that ass, I will just keep kicking it.  And if you keep giving

me ‘likes‘ it will be the nearest thing I’ll ever experience to holding that trophy


Ode To Autumn


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John Keats by William Hilton.jpg

(Another re-blog as I meant to re-post this yesterday, for

St Crispin’s Day, 25th October)

St Crispin’s Day, sighed Brassie, my close-bosom friend.

The nights are drawing in. This weekend we change the clocks,

don’t we?  Which way?

Fall back; Spring forward, I reminded her.

(She can never remember in which direction to adjust her timekeepers.)

Think about it like this: tights down. Tights, as in stalactites.  My teacher said

they hung down.  But people are hanged. She also recited: One ‘l’ lama he’s a

priest; two ‘l’ llama he’s a priest, but you can bet your silk pyjama, there isn’t

any three ‘l’ lllama.

Dalai Lama at WhiteHouse (cropped).jpg

Why should tights hang down?  Wolford ones don’t. And shouldn’t it have

been ‘pyjamas’? remarked Brassie.  Anyway, what are you

talking about?

Just deliberating on my life and how it has fallen into the sere..

You sound a bit depressed, she stated bluntly.

I can’t help the pathetic fallacy of the season.  Keats was too upbeat in my


I wouldn’t exactly have called him a glass half full kind of guy, objected


Suppose he had written about Autumn thus, I volunteered, pushing a

sheet of A4 in her direction.


Season of fogs, mouldy putrefaction,

enemy of the geriatric sun,

bringing depression, dissatisfaction,

blasting the mildewed fruit trees, one by one;

tainting blackberries with lead pollution,

eroding limestone buildings as the air

saturates with sulphuric solution.

Emissions from cars, whose owners don’t care

make children’s lungs bloat as they breathe exhaust

fumes more deadly than poppy opiates:

an inspiration of enormous cost-

harvest to be garnered at future dates.

Who has not seen them oft amid their stores,

stockpiling for Christmas, demented folk?

Those raking rotting leaves: of garden chores

the most thankless.  Resulting bonfire smoke

irritating neighbours, whose dank washing

is ash-specked.  Home-brew enthusiasts start

ineffectual sterilising, squashing

of elderberries….It’s then their wives depart

for evenings out, to let men watch the ooze;

they do lotteries with syndicate friends,

hoping for windfalls; drinking decent booze.

Who hears the songs of Spring?  It all depends

to what you are attuned.  If you have kids,

you’ll hear the first whine of the Christmas list,

as children’s advertising makes its bids-

o’erwhelming, so no parent can resist

its importunities.  The dismal rain

fills gutters blocked by aforementioned leaves,

which de-rail, or delay the British train,

which sceptical commuter scarce believes.

Cold, full-grown lambs may bleat from hilly bourn,

outwith the fold, or a housing bubble.

Reaped fields disappear; crops, livestock we mourn.

Winnowing is gone- designer stubble

the only razing we can recognise.

Clearly Men and Nature are out of synch.

Seasonal disorders rise.

If Keats were here, whatever would he think?

I think that is SAD, said Brassie.


Yes, the product of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Go and get a light


Very helpful.  If the Romantics had been persuaded to get a light box,

we wouldn’t have had all that marvellous poetry.

Interesting subject for a dissertation.

Well, why don’t you write it, instead of all that drivel?

Because we might not be amused. How much are light boxes, anyway?

Trick or Treat?


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Frankenweenie (2012 film) poster.jpg

(A seasonal re-blog, folks- enjoy!)

It was Hallowe’en and Carrie’s children were hyper-excited.  Tiger-Lily was in

charge of her siblings.  She had dressed as a witch and her brother, Ferdy, was

carrying a plastic trident and sported horns.  Ming had a black plastic cape and

his smile was rather disconcerting as he had managed to retain plastic fangs

from a Christmas cracker in his mouth, in spite of the additional dental

obstruction of a brace.  The whole effect was akin to Frankenweenie.  Bill was

a white-faced zombie with fake blood dripping down his jaw.  Edward’s face

was green and he had a screw sticking out of his neck.  Rollo was a

Ghostbuster. All carried pumpkin lanterns and empty, be-ribboned

mini-trugs, for the reception of donated goodies.

Now be polite, children, and only visit the houses on High Street.  Ring the

doorbells once only and say thank you if anyone gives you fruit.  You

mustn’t accept money…

Edward looked disappointed. I’ll wait round the corner in The Peal O’ Bells

with the other mummies.  Stay together and when you’ve finished, knock on

the window.

Let’s go to Grandma’s first, said Ferdy. She won’t be scared of us.

Yes, let’s get it over with, said Tiger.

They rang the doorbell and stepped back politely.

Suddenly a white-sheeted figure with two black holes for eyes

opened the door and shouted: Boo!

Little Edward was terrified.  He seized his sister’s hand and dropped

his trug.

It’s only Grandma, silly, said Tiger, annoyed at the naughty nonagenarian.

Trick or treat, Grandma?

Ginevra pulled the sheet off and smoothed her hair.

We’re not having that American nonsense here, she lectured.  When your

daddy was small he had to do guising properly.  We’re a traditional family. 

So, who’s going to do the first turn?

Turn? quailed Rollo.

Yes.  A  recitation, dance or song.  You don’t get owt for nowt as they

used to say.

What’s a recitation?  asked Ming.

Come in.  I’ll show you, said Ginevra enthusiastically.  Ola! Have you put

the apples in the basin of water?

But Ola wasn’t there.  She had run off to Bric-a-Brac with Jean-Paul,

the widower from the twinning visit.  Ginevra had forgotten the new

carer’s name.

Sorry.  Magda, then.

They all trooped into the sitting room and Ginevra moved her case of

Dewlap Gin for Discerning Grandmothers off the sofa, so that they could

sit down.

She took a deep, somewhat juniper-scented breath and launched


Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought Death into the world and all our woe…

Sing, Heavenly Muse!…

Two hours later Tiger had to shake Edward awake as her

grandmother uttered the final words:

..through Eden took their solitary way.

Ginevra bowed with a huge flourish and pronounced:

Paradise Lost: now that’s poetry!

She then proceeded to help herself to a bag of Mars bars which

Magda had been instructed to purchase for the children.


Grandma, we’ve got to go.  It’s past Edward’s bed-time, said Tiger-Lily


Oh, what a pity.  We didn’t get round to ducking for apples, said Ginevra,


There’s always next year, replied Tiger, scarcely banishing a rather un-

grand-daughterly thought: If the old bag is still around.

Carrie was frantic:  Where have you been all this time?

Blame Grandma, said Tiger.  Give her any opportunity or a platform and

you’ll be there all night.

You should have taken the crucifix and the garlic, like I told you, said

Carrie, bundling them into the 4×4She’s always been a monster.

Even to Daddy? asked an exhausted Ming.

Especially to Daddy.  Never mind.  We’ll have good fun at Clammie

and Tristram’s Guy Fawkes Party.  Burning effigies is so therapeutic!




Core Curriculum


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Dru stood back to admire her boarders’ display board.

She had organised them to produce a poster advertising the Apple

Bobbing Evening.  Some, who had northern roots, had wanted to call it

Ducking’, but she went with the Standard English appellation.

Isolde had drawn a very sophisticated Pomona, which she had copied

from a William Morris illustration.  She was nearly as good at Art as Juniper

Boothroyd-Smythe had been.

Of course, fertility goddesses had been in her own mind ever since she had

heard that companies such as Apple might consider freezing their female

employees’ eggs.

Everyone was becoming excited but she had had to discipline a Sixth Former

who had quoted Dorothy Parker in her hearing- whether deliberately or not

she was unsure.

Ducking for apples-change one letter and it is the story of my life.

How could someone so young be tainted with such a degree of

Schadenfreude?  Or was that emotion only connected to an absorption in

the misfortune of others?  She would have to look it up in one of the girls’

German dictionaries.

The girls had decorated the borders of the poster with pentgrams, which

apparently are the shape you see around the seeds if an apple is cut

horizontally.  Dru had checked with the Religious Studies Department and

had been assured that these were shapes used in Christian amulets long

before they had been appropriated, or misappropriated by Aleister Crowley

et al.

One could never be too careful as parents were so litigious nowadays

and anything that they disapproved of was difficult to implement.  Dru told

some that the activity was part of the core curriculum, which seemed to

satisfy them.  She drew their attention to Carmenta- a version of the

goddess Ceres. The former had invented the Roman alphabet and so

was educationally relevant.  This damped down the fires of protest.

She had had to resort to hanging the fruit on strings, however,

as there had been an objection as to the potential exchange of body fluids

if girls opened their mouths underwater while trying to bite and secure a

Cox’s Pippin, or whatever.  The aggrieved parent insisted on there being a

First Responder in attendance in case her precious darling choked.

Drusilla did not intend to be pipped to the post, however.  She was going to

go first and, if successful, she would be the first to marry.

Thankfully Nigel had answered the invitation in the affirmative and he

promised to bring some gingerbread men and a couple of carved



Gingerbread men.jpg



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Frozen (2013 film) poster.jpg

Mum!  Hi!  How’s it going?

Drusilla had to snatch a chance to phone her mother.  She was on the

go all day, every day, at St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl‘s

boarding house.  Still, it would be half term soon.  She would have to

start baking all those farewell Brownies.  She felt that the girls should be

baking them for her, but they made such a mess in the kitchen.

The Juniors were in the common room, watching Frozen.  It was a treat,

as everyone was up to date with their prep and it gave Dru a chance to

catch her breath.  Her Deputy was on maternity leave, so the lot fell largely

upon her.

Things had been quieter on the whole since the brazen Juniper Boothroyd-

Smythe had left and gone to Glasgow School of Art.  It had been a real

challenge, keeping her on track.  Still, her father had been very grateful

and donated a case of Pop My Cork! wine to the staffroom.

Great, dear!  Murgatroyd and I were contemplating a little cruise.  I quite

fancied The Norwegian Fjords, but forgot that they would be in darkness at

this time of year.

I suppose they might be illuminated by The Northern Lights? suggested Dru,

not really focussing on what she was saying, because she suddenly noticed

a paperback on the coffee table in the hall.

Wait a minute, Mum.  Look, I’ll phone you back.

Dru snatched up the offending title and stuffed it under her jumper.  Lady

Chatterley’s Lover!  She would have to have words with the Upper Fifth!

Oh, hi, Miss Fotheringay.  It was Isolde Percival, Scheherezade’s younger

sister. She was having a taster sleep-over to see if she liked boarding.

Have you seen my English reader?

Dru thought that Isolde might spread it around that the Boarding Mistress

of Weston House was in a state of infanticipation, if she were to notice the

bump under the magisterial sweater.  It would be a historical re-run, as Dru’s

mother had once been a boarding house mistress, and she had left with a

very pronounced bulge, namely Drusilla herself. That was in the days when

you implicitly signed away your fertility in your acceptance of your terms and

conditions.  However, the responsibility for the latest sprog entry on the

school waiting list had been passed on to Diana’s unwitting new beau,

MurgatroydSyylk.  Yet now all appeared to be forgiven and they were

planning to see what floated their current boat.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-18073-0003, Konstantin Sergejewitsch Stanislawski.jpg

Aaaaaaaaaaatishoo! Dru utilised some kind of method acting which might not

have impressed Stanislavski.

Sorry,dear.  Just a moment.

She propelled herself into the staff office and pretended to look for a box of

tissues while she gave birth to the banned text.

Just my allergy, she apologised.  Oh, was this the book you were looking for?

Someone must have handed it into the office.  Is your name inside it?

Isolde looked inside the front cover.  Yes, Miss Fotheringay.  It’s definitely


It felt curiously warm.

Isolde, emm, is this a reader that you have been given as a whole class?

Yes, Miss Fotheringay.  It’s on the syllabus.  Mum’s been reading it too and

we discuss it at home.

Dru felt frigid, never mind frozen.

Very well. Run along and tell the Juniors that they need to stop the DVD

now and get their jammies on.

A chorus of Aaaaaws!! reached her ears.

D H Lawrence passport photograph.jpg

Hi, mum!  Sorry about the interruption.  Did the girls read Lawrence when

you were on the staff?



Oh, good heavens-yes!  Usually under the blankets with a torch.  We used to

confiscate the copies and read them ourselves.  It was still banned as a dirty

book until 1960.

Anyway, we are going to go to Oslo and then plan to go north to see as much

Sami culture as we can.  I want to learn about rosemaling.

Who is she?

No, it’s an art form, explained her mother.

Reminds me of the film the girls were watching.  Frozen, Dru


Sounds as if there’s a lot more fun in the old place than there was

in my day, remarked her mother.  The pervasive atmosphere then

was more like Permafrost, especially in the Senior Non-Smoking


Anyway, must love you and leave you as Murgatroyd wants

me to book some reindeer thingy online.  Speak soon!

And she was gone.

Dru caught a glance of herself in the mirror.  Her complexion was

greyish and it was only five weeks into term.  Her face looked as if

it needed Botox, or a blowtorch, perhaps? As for the rest of her…

She wondered what Lawrence would have made of her type.  He’d

probably have thought her  barren and in need of a few visits to a

pheasant run.

Hmmm. At this rate she would need to apply to the governing body to ask

if they would pay for her to freeze some eggs.  She didn’t fancy having that

mannish science technician doing something drastic to her ovopositor with

liquid nitrogen. It had been bad enough when she’d had some warts


Well, Time’s winged chariot and all that…She was unlikely to meet Prince Hans

of the Southern Isles while she was in loco parentis to this lot.  If she was

ever to thaw out, she might just have to stop sticking the shards into her soul

and hitch up with good old Nigel.  At least he wasn’t a mythical devil teacher

taking his pupils through the world, distorting everything they saw in his weird

mirror.  He was more like Marshmallow (not!), the bodyguard in the film.

Trolls seemed to leave him alone, even on Rate My Teacher sites, as he was

wise enough not to raise his head above the parapet.

Yes, she could do a lot worse and, even though she didn’t look like a Bratz doll

and never had, she thought that she had had enough of the cerebral and might

just try to explore this vitality thing that Lawrence kept banging on about.

However, she didn’t intend seizing him- Nigel, she meant, not the novelist, by

the throat, as Mrs Ivy Bolton was said to have done, metaphorically-speaking,

to David Herbert’s poor old paralysed Clifford.  No, she’d take a gentler approach

and invite him – Nigel, she meant- to Weston House’s Apple Ducking Evening and

would see how it went from there. (She couldn’t envisage DH ‘dooking’ for apples.

Not with that huge chip on his shoulder. Frieda, maybe, but not him.  Mind you, she

couldn’t imagine Nigel being very successful at it either.)  Nor at other playful

activities, but- as the girls were wont to say,  Don’t go there!



The Angel of the North


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You have been very quiet lately, Candia, Brassie remarked.  It’s not

like you.

Well, I thought I’d let everyone catch up with my outpourings. I

did get somewhat carried away at the time of The Referendum.

Here’s an old poem to stave off your withdrawal symptoms:

The Angel of the North

Benediction, or annunciation?

A call to build a New Jerusalem

amid these grim industrial wastelands?

A pinhead would not hold many of these.

This is no iridescent dragonfly,

but a harbinger, whose rusty steel frame

and non-encompassing bi-plane wingspan

strikes Virgin train travellers as awesome;

and overwhelms drivers on the A1.

Idling engines don’t speak Magnificats.


He wouldn’t grace a furnace, or lions’ den-.

feet grounded in Vulcan collieries.

He prevents no patriarch at knifepoint

and has no nimbus seal of immanence.

No Moebius strip with a Gothick script

in Gutenberg Germanic Latin type

streams from his non-existent mouth,

to say, Behold, I bring you glad tidings,

or, Even so shall it be unto you.


From brass heavens he signifies nothing:

no Logos for a world of trite logos.

This is for Thomases -his tangible

body, too solid to admit fingers.

His design brief has a fall prevention

factor, but proud buffetings brought to Earth

once shimmering forms who’d vaunted aloud;

now racked in deep despair.  And fall they did.

What is his pronouncement over estates

whose lintels bear not a smear of lamb’s blood?

Perhaps he is nothing to those who drive by,

or who trusted in their own welded ships.

Maybe he’s a monument to Nothing

and, though fatigue may erode him one day,

somehow he commands and is riveting.

What’s in a Name?


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Avon logo.svg

No, it’s not Avon calling, since no one has rung the doorbell.  Sadly, neither

is it an envelope bearing an address from the Indyref#supporting city of

Glasgow on its rear flap, indicating a life-changing Premium Bond re-

invested win of twenty-five quid.  Nor is it a tax rebate.  No, it is one of

those annoying red and white cards from Royal Mail which commands you

to rise, take up your bed and walk to the local office to pick up your parcel,

which was too large to be shredded through the letterbox.

Wait!  I struggle to put on my shoes with their orthotic inserts and race out,

subsequently hoping I have put my door on its latch.  Where is the wretched

Postman Pat?  There’s no sign of a baseball cap, nor unseasonable Bermuda

shorts.  There’s no sign of Jess, the cat, or Mrs Goggins.

There is a red trolley parked a couple of doors away, standing like an Anish

Kapoor sculpture in a sea of loom bands..  Hey!  Maybe the parcel is still on


Apparently not.  Don’t be stupid.  They never had any intention to deliver it.

Did I detect a smirk?

No, the nuisance package is awaiting my collection at a local office which

has restricted opening hours.  And it won’t be available till the next working

day after the non-event.

That will be Saturday. There is absolutely zero chance of The Husband’s short-

term memory system kicking in at the weekend.  He is unable to simultaneously

hold the concepts of mail retrieval and FT purchase.  Maybe it’s something to

do with his hippocampus. (I think that influences short term memory, but I

can’t remember.)

Anyway, forget seven items’ recall, plus or minus two.  He struggles to

remember two.  He seems to struggle to process what I’m talking about.

Naively, I expected him to follow my simple instructions to buy some carrots

and parsnips, along with his newspaper.  But then, mentally over-loaded,

he wouldn’t have remembered to fetch the package, would he?.

I know that is a total of three things, but he could have grouped both

edibles under a superordinate term, such as ‘root vegetables’ and then he

would have only had two purchases to recall.  You surely don’t have to be

Derren Brown to think of coping strategies.

Probably The Husband’s hippocampus shrank and re-absorbed itself, like

the Edinburgh panda did with its foetus, when he was faced with multi-


I bet male hippocampi don’t function like their namesake sea-horses, who

at least have the decency to share the female workload more equitably.


So, I get to go for the parcel and the parsnips.  He’s already deep in The FT

‘Money’ supplement.  He reminds me of that man who had to be rescued from

his bubble in the Atlantic.  Except The Husband doesn’t want to be rescued.

He loves his bubble.  And sometimes I like it too.

There’s a queue and the woman in front of me is being asked for ID.  Okay, I

think smugly, I’ve got some bank cards and a National Trust card:

out-of-date- but nevertheless..

Zut alors!  The parcel is addressed to The Husband.  I don’t happen to be

carrying his passport, or driving licence on me.  Do I have the STD card?

Supposed Time of Delivery?  I think of Andy Murray and his novel

utilisation of the acronym.  He was laughed down for texting his

terpsichorean mother to wish her good luck with the ‘STD’.  I believe

he meant SCD, but he wasn’t being ‘Strictly‘ accurate.

Just keep serving!

Judy Murray Olympic Games.jpg

Anyway, I digress..

It’s okay, I remonstrate. The postie knows me.  We talk nearly every day,

mainly through the letter-flap, when he fails to close it and a howling gale

like a Boson particle zooming round a hadron collider whooshes down my

hall.  He could push the vast wad of junk mail completely through, if he

feels that he really must burden the planet with it.  Why doesn’t he just

dump it like some of his colleagues are wont to do?  In a Black Hole,


This woman is as immoveable as a post-box.

No, we need proof of ID for the addressee.  Names are very important

to us.Just like your custom.

Right, but that works both ways, I parry.  You’re not so particular

when it comes to stuffing any old person’s correspondence and bank

statements through my front door.  Anyhow, I can tell you that the box

contains a replacement fridge shelf.  Not many people would know that.

So, it must be ours.

She doesn’t pick up on the Michael Caine reference.

Okay, you can have it just this once, she concedes, but next time I need

a couple of utility bills in his name.

Not Michael Caine’s then.  I’m having fun.

I return to find The Husband still wading through the pink newspaper.

I picked up your parcel, I say.

(He’s not listening.)

You did get the carrots, didn’t you? I persevere.  I can’t see them in my

fridge.  No, our fridge. When I can’t see them in the first person

possessive plural’s fridge it means they are not there.

Sorry, I forgot, he confesses lamely.

And it’s then that I look in my bag and have to admit to myself that

I have forgotten to buy parsnips.  But I don’t tell him.  I just sneak out

while he reads his way through the rest of The Weekend Section.

I’m not infallible.  But not many people are allowed to guess that.

Generation Wuss


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‘Generation Wuss?  What’s all that about? Brassie asked me as she tried

to decipher what I was studying in a newspaper borrowed from the rack

in Costamuchamoulah cafe’s complimentary reading material.

Oh, it’s just that American Psycho guy- you know, the writer Bret Easton

Ellis, sounding off in ‘Vanity Fair’ about those born post-1989.  He calls them

self-obsessed, narcissistic, over-sensitive…

That’s a bit harsh, surely?

Well, he does admit that he has expressed ‘huge generalities’ but he

thinks many are unable to accept constructive criticism and buy into a

currency of popularity, dealing mainly in brands, profiles and merely

rating social media presence.

Kids have always been slammed by previous generations, Brassie

remarked.  There has always been a divide between shiftless

layabouts and those with a developed work ethic.

Like the Prodigal Son, I declared.  But The Elder Brother wasn’t

congratulated on his mean attitude.  The workers in the vineyard

who turned up late, but did some work, were given the same

wages.  And the people of St Kilda received the same ration of gugas

and gannets, whatever they did.

However, I expect that if they had overslept on their straw mattresses

and plugged themselves into their i-pads, or whatever, when there was

a gannet gathering expedition taking place, their mums would soon have

emptied a cruse of fulmar oil over their heads, or slapped them with a

wind-dried puffin..

I have been known to precipitate action myself, but I only use water,

Brassie admitted.

If the Prodigal Son’s father hadn’t agreed to giving him his inheritance

so soon, perhaps his wastrel son wouldn’t have expended it all on

riotous living.  Maybe his father wanted him to make his own choices.

Yes, said Brassie, it’s always dangerous to let people make their own

mistakes and it does impinge on other people.  It’s hard to strike the


A typical dilemma of Biblical proportions, I agreed.  What do you think

of this topical poem I scribbled at five thirty this morning?

Let’s have a look, she sighed.


The Fatted Calf speaks:


No, the Golden Calf was a relation,

but nobody bows down, or worships me.

I’ve been a long time in the fattening,

unlike those who claim, I don’t eat that much,

but who keep piling on pound after pound-

or should I say minas, pims and bekahs?

I’ve been stuffed to the gunnels and force-fed

over a fairly lengthy period:

I’d say since about the time the boy left.

Every day his father filled my manger;

he’d talk to me while tears streamed down his cheeks.

The elder son, the one who was jealous,

thought he’d sink his teeth into me one day-

maybe as the main course at his wedding,

but none of the girls like his attitude.

He still has a mother to care for him,

though she keeps comfort eating all day long.

But my mater was sold off long ago

and my younger brother was sacrificed.

I’ve felt separation anxiety!


Apparently, he was living it up

on some all-expenses paid gap year.

Now his mamma regrets ever nagging:

Tidy your room. It looks like a pig sty!

The gossip is he’s had to take a job:

Trust Fund Kid is working as a swineherd.

The Bank of Dad is into overdraft.

He’s discovered he can’t make a silk purse

out of a sow’s ear. Enough is a trough.

He’s never going to bring home the bacon.

But at least his porcine companions

don’t wallow like humans in self-pity.


In our own ways, we’re confined to our stalls-

unless he swallows his pride and comes home.

Meanwhile I’m feeling about to explode.

The elder son is imprisoned too.

His father confines himself to the farm,

not going out in case his son should call.


You could say I’m being killed by kindness

and maybe the boy feels that he was too.

Lord knows, he was a party animal,

but we could all do with cheering up now.




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