Sunday, 27 February 2011


There are some news stories which are so amazing that they demand comment. Stories which are so newsworthy that they quickly fly round the world and become favourites all over the globe.

For instance, I doubt if there are many of you who haven't seen the incredible footage of Susan Boyle's audition on 'Britain's got talent'. Even if you saw it originally, it is still worth watching again.

The audience and judges alike were cynically smirking as she revealed her dream to sing professionally and become a star. They were then completely stunned as she began to sing and her voice 'blew them all away'. Of course, she received a standing ovation and is now an international singing success.

The current news sensation is no less surprising in nature. It is the story of the gang of five jewel thieves who were attacked and foiled in their attempts by a Granny armed only with her handbag.

This amazing lady, showing no regard for her own safety whatever, charged at the gang swinging her handbag at them wildly and was successful in that one of them fell off his getaway scooter. Once he was lying on the ground and his accomplices had made their escape, several men ran forward to hold him down until the police arrived. Apart from the one who didn't get away, two others have since been arrested and two more are still at large.

There has been much comment about the way so many men had stood back as the SuperGran steamed into the attack and did not enter the fray until it was relatively safe.

I feel the need to defend the honour of my sex. On the film of the incident, the robbers were clearly so stunned by the sight of this plucky old lady that although they were equipped with hammers, they made no attempt to defend themselves or to retaliate against her. However, if it had been a man instead of a Grandma, they would have seen him as a serious threat and would surely have attacked him.

The cartoon in The Times amused me. It depicted a switchboard operator answering the emergency phone line with "Emergency. Which service do you require.....Fire, Police, or Granny with handbag?"

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


My dear old Auntie Monica was a real character. She used to run a dog kennels and having been put out to stud herself she had produced two boys. (She would kill me for saying that!) She wasn't actually a relative, just a very close friend of my mother's since their childhood. My Mum had also produced two boys and this allowed them to compare notes on a regular basis.

They both seemed to agree that they were better off having boys than girls. Their reason, which they freely admitted, was that they remembered how dreadfully behaved they had both been as little girls. I remember Auntie Monica talking about what trouble it would have been to bring up daughters. Her main concern was about protecting them from the attention of boys.

Her suggested solution was that if she had given birth to daughters instead of sons, she would have started secretly putting the contraceptive pill in their cereal every morning from the age of nine onwards.

My Mum's mother had a different method. Apparently, she would urge her wilful daughter to "Keep your hand on your ha'penny". This lovely old phrase was in very common usage and was a gentle way of telling them to keep their hand firmly between their legs so as to deny their boyfriends access.

In the circumstances, I am very grateful that my Dad was able to persuade Mum to spend her halfpenny - to coin a phrase.

Sunday, 20 February 2011


I was interested to read India Knight's report in The Sunday Times of an enterprising school in Lancashire which put the recent enforced school closure due to bad weather to good use. The subject which benefitted was creative writing since the children were asked to blog about the weather situation and other matters.

Boys will be boys and with their inherent affinity with all things techno they, in particular, took to this with great alacrity discovering that writing had suddenly become 'cool'.

The school has now officially incorporated blogging into its curriculum and as a result, the percentage of students who achieved an above average grade has leapt from 9% to 63%. Other schools are following their example.

If this techno approach can work for creative writing just think of all the other possibilities.

For instance it is a well-known fact that children hate sprouts but what if a new online space hero thrived on them? 'Supersprout' has a certain ring to it don't you think?

Or perhaps a pop-eyed, tattooed sailor who gains his strength by eating cans of spinach? No, that's just too ridiculous to catch on.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


It's Valentine's day so you'll be wanting to hear all about this amorous Saint and why we have this special day for him. Well sorry to disappoint you but no-one seems to know much about the fellow. Instead, let me issue you with a few caveats.

Firstly, if your husband (or wife) receives a Valentine card from someone other than yourself signed 'guess who?', before you start looking up the number of your nearest divorce lawyer, check that the lawyer didn't send it to drum up some business.

I would also urge you not to follow in the footsteps of an Austrian gentleman named Hannes Pisek who so loved his girlfriend that he arranged 220 candles in the shape of a heart on the floor of their flat. He then lit them and went to collect her from work. As you may have anticipated, they returned to a blazing inferno and his girlfriend left him and went back to live with her parents.

Finally ladies, next leap year I should avoid copying the lady who intending to propose to her boyfriend, cooked him his favourite meal (which was toad-in-the-hole) and hid the engagement ring under one of the sausages. He found the ring alright and pulled it out of his mouth together with a large piece of broken tooth. This story has a happy ending though since they are now happily married.

Roses are red, violets are lime,
They need to be so I can get this to rhyme.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


...being the third article relating to the origin of old English words and phrases.

My brother and I get on much better now than we did as children. Three and a half years was just too big an age gap back then, but now it is much less even though he does like to rub it in that he was born in a different decade from me. Not that I care - much.

Our dear mother taught us to fend for ourselves, especially where eating was concerned. One fateful Saturday morning my brother who was about 9 years old at the time, fried himself a breakfast and made an almighty mess in the process. Mum was furious and demanded to know who was the culprit. Faced with "It was him", 'No, it was him", she gave my brother the benefit of the doubt and as a punishment, I was left behind as my parents took my brother off for the planned picnic.

I spent the afternoon playing canasta with my Grandma and since she believed me, she gave me some money to go out and buy us both some cream cakes. Not wanting her daughter to know that she had treated me, she said 'Mum's the word" which as I'm sure you know, was asking me to keep things a secret.

It turns out that the phrase is Shakespearian having been used in Henry VI part two, the word 'Mum' being middle English for 'silent', probably after the sound 'mmm' made when your lips are closed.

So I had a lovely afternoon unlike my brother who was brought home wrapped in a blanket having fallen into a muddy, smelly pond.

Perfect justice.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


I suppose that there can be few things worse than wronging somebody unjustly. Thinking ill thoughts of someone and then discovering that they were entirely innocent of your false accusations is most unpleasant. Thankfully though, if you are big enough to admit your failings, an apology will usually put things to right.

It's a bit tougher if you suspect that they knew nothing of your bad view of them but I have got past such situations on occasion by making a joke of it. However, "I used to think you were such a bore - but now I find you really interesting" probably says more about you than about them.

Toughest of all though are those of whom you had negative feelings but who have now dropped off the perch. Sadly I have today discovered that a man who I thought to be a vain fool may well have been nothing of the kind. I refer to the late King Canute who reigned over us and much of Scandinavia between the 10th and 11th centuries.

It may well be that you, like me, believe that his self-belief in his own power was so warped that he sat on the beach and commanded the waves to stop advancing. Presumably this was until the water reached his mouth when he gargled his command.

Well it seems that King Canute was cuter than this (sorry - irresistible). He was actually demonstrating to his fawning courtiers that he was not as powerful as they reckoned him to be. My apologies then dear Canute both for having thought bad things about you and also for not using your true name (Cnut) throughout this piece for fear of accidentally misspelling it.

Sunday, 6 February 2011


OK Here's the thing. I've been blogging for a couple of years now - normally posting my drivel on Wednesdays and Sundays. But I only recently discovered that Blogger, the host site which I use, has a most useful feature. Regardless of when I actually write a post, I can schedule it to appear on my site on a specific date at a specific time.

Just consider this for a moment. As we know, the muse is notoriously capricious and can desert a writer for long spells and then reappear in such a way that we can't get the words down fast enough. So now, I can dash off several blogs and set them up to explode onto the internet like time bombs at future dates.

Obviously, it is very convenient that I don't have to remember to post them myself on the set days - especially if I am on holiday lying on a beach somewhere. Yes dear reader, you are doomed to suffer them even when I am away on vacation. But have you seen where this leads us?

I am become immortal. I can set my scribblings to appear long after I am dead! All I have to do is to schedule my words of wisdom to appear on here in let us say, the year 2050 when I shall be but a distant memory. I'll be a sort of digital version of Samuel Pepys.

The problem is, I can think of absolutely nothing to say to future generations that they might want to read.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


I return once again to my Grandfather's college book - 'Pierrot's Album' most of which was written in the first half of the 1900's. This is a page in his own handwriting which I assume to be his creation. I hope you will enjoy it's humour and its sneak peek at a time of innocence.

The page consists of a few short verses which are all related to food. He has titled them 'UnBeeton Menus' - a play on words related to Mrs Beeton who was the Delia Smith of Grandad's era. As you will see, the casual use of French was all the rage. I have provided translations just in case you are Napoleonically challenged.

Oeuf = egg, poulet = chicken, lapin = rabbit, Jeunesse Doree = golden youth,

Les Oeufs
Two oeufs is human, four or five divine

(As I'm sure you have realised, this is another play on words for 'To err is human, to forgive divine').

Poulet en Casserole
In restaurants why does it happen
That poulet's so frequently lapin
Is it just one of those things
Or is it that neither has wings?

Jeunesse Doree
On menus every pigs a suckling,
Fowl is chicken, duck is duckling,
Restaurants possess in truth
The secret of eternal youth.

One sort of artichoke is a globe
The other is Jerusalem
But which is which I cannot probe
I always seem to confusalem.

Herbert Pearce.