Wednesday, 29 June 2011


I was pleased to see recently that doctors have finally realised that the current drink limits for the over 65's need to be changed.

You only have to see the photos of binge-drinking youths which appear regularly in the newspapers to realise that we senior citizens have a much more sensible attitude to alcohol than younger generations do and it is clearly time that this was taken into account in setting these drink limits.

After many years of drinking experience, we have matured like a good vintage wine and our ability to drink responsibly has obviously improved year on year.

Speaking personally, I am always well aware of my limits when drinking. The first limit occurs when I become merry. Then there is the limit at which my speech begins to slur a little. The next limit is reached when pouring a drink and spilling it become inexplicably linked. Following this, I find that the subsequent limit usually manifests itself by the desire to dance - usually the venue and lack of a dancing partner are irrelevant here.

The final stage is usually silent, the power of speech having disappeared, and is also identified by the constant of a wine bottle in my hand which may or may not involve a glass. As a mature drinker, I can assure you that I always stop drinking not too long after this last stage is reached.

Say what? They want us to drink less? They say our drink limits should be lower? Preposterous. I can only think that these doctors must have been as drunk as skunks when they wrote their report.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


I must confess to being in awe of womankind. We arrogant males have sought to subjugate them so often in history and sadly this state of affairs still continues in the culture of many countries round the world today.

You cannot but admire the women who have bravely fought back against this tyranny. Women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, who was prominent in the suffragette movement in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Most notably, Emily Davidson died for this cause when struck by the king's horse at the Epsom derby in 1913.

More recently, we have the reports of brave Saudi women protesting because in their country, women are banned from driving cars although there is no obvious reason why this should be the case apart from a further attempt at the subjugation of women.

If you need more evidence of the way in which women are gradually and rightfully edging towards equality, look no further than the phenomenon known as slut walks. These were instigated after a foolish Toronto policeman suggested that women who wore 'provocative' clothing were in some way a legitimate target for rape.

Women across the globe have reacted to this nonsensical suggestion by organising protest marches dressed up in 'slutty' clothes and sporting wonderful banners such as my favourite 'This dress does not mean yes'.

Yes, women are truly amazing and I am willing to place a bet, that had she been alive today, Emmeline Pankhurst would have been there leading a slut walk wearing her best basque.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Generally speaking, like most people I imagine, I like to keep abreast of fashion.

Where clothes are concerned, I have for instance, embraced cuban heels and winkle pickers, bell-bottoms and drainpipe trousers, kipper ties and donkey jackets.

Turning to household fads and fashion, I remember being swayed by the trend to having bathroom suites in dark colours. I seem to recall that 'Pampas' and 'Avocado' were all the rage back in the 60's and 70's.

There are some modern trends however which are so repugnant that I shall be shunning them like the plague. I shall not for instance, be leaving the house with my trousers rolled up at the bottom. The only time in my life when I have done that is to go for a paddle on the beach.

With regard to home interiors, they have come up with an idea which sadly, seems to be catching on. It is a notion so sick and depraved that it fills me with horror. I refer to 'faux food'. You must have seen it. First there was fake fruit in bowls which were so lifelike that you were in great risk of breaking a tooth as you succumbed to temptation and took a bite out of a delicious looking pear.

Worst of all, we now have cup cake stands with a few temptingly placed cup cakes on them made I assume, of plaster of paris or the like. This is sheer torture.

Rest assured that if you visit my home any food on display will be edible, not for display purposes. Mind you, the fact that I haven't already eaten it would suggest that it could be well past its best before date so be warned.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


I'm all for freedom of speech but that goes with freedom to choose not to listen.

People have been speaking out on all manner of subjects at Speaker's corner in Hyde Park since the mid 1800's and long may it continue. They say their piece and then their words are carried away by the wind and when they've gone the park is quiet again.

Graffiti is a whole different thing. When somebody daubs their words of doubtful wisdom all over a wall, fence, bridge or whatever, it remains, often with horrendous spelling mistakes for a very long time.

Well if you can't beat them, join them. I plan to get a can or two of aerosol paint - one black and one white might do it, and having donned my black anorak, sneak out at the dead of night to spray my neighbourhood.

Of course, I shall be spraying over the existing graffiti to restore the black fence or the white wall to its former glory. Care to join me?

Trouble is, my anorak being what it is - it's not so much urban guerilla as urban gorilla.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


I didn't see it coming. Things seemed perfectly normal but people kept asking me what the matter was. Then suddenly I saw it. Just sitting there looking at me and wagging it's tail.

The 'black dog' was Winston Churchill's nickname for his bouts of depression. It all made sense when I realised that I was depressed. Then I got depressed because I was depressed. Now I'm getting depressed because I am writing about being depressed and that is the last thing you want to read about - right?

I found myself walking along waiting for the pigeon droppings to land on me. Feeling that I wanted to cry for absolutely no reason. I recognised the miserable mutt. He and I were close companions for a year or so but that was a very long time ago.

It is health issues - mine and close family which have invited the black dog in but I'm sure that half the battle is recognising it. So I'm going to stare it down, peer into it's eyes unblinking until it slinks away to find someone else to pester.

There it goes ... tail between it's legs.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Long marriages are a bit of a tradition in my family, none more so than my parents who having married in 1944 were parted only by death as their vows had required of them some fifty six years later.

I often love to browse through their 'Lover's log'. This is a delightful book in which they had completed sections such as 'What first attracted you to her/him?' It also asked that they give each other scores out of ten for such qualities as 'good looks', 'obstinacy' and so on.

They had their ups and downs like most couples but everyone who knew them could sense the close bond of love which united them. I remember my grandmother once remarking that my Mum was 'the apple of Dad's eye'. At the time, I probably just thought that Gran had got her words muddled up but I know now of course that it really is a common expression in our language.

The origin is apparently biblical and refers to the centre or pupil of the eye as something very precious to you. It occurs several times as in

Proverbs 7:2
- Keep my commands and you will live;
guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

Today I am giving my daughter away in marriage. I can only hope that when she and her new husband look lovingly into each other's eyes, all they see is a big bowl of fruit.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


I hope that like me, there have been times in your life when you have been 'moved' by a good piece of writing.

My latest experience of this was watching a film called 'Lovely, Still' which stars Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn. I have noticed that many critics panned the film as being 'cheesy', schmaltzy' and the like. They clearly have no soul.

I'm about to give a resume of the cleverly worked story which is therefore a 'spoiler', because I think it's worth retelling.

We are introduced to an old guy who lives alone and who works in the local supermarket. One morning he sets off to work as usual but forgets to close the front door behind him because he is distracted by noticing a removals van arriving at a house opposite.

When he returns home, he is worried to find his front door open and entering cautiously he is alarmed to discover an elderly lady within. He confronts her and she explains that she was concerned to see his door open and came in to check he was OK. She also reveals that she is part of the family who have moved in opposite.

Being of similar age, they quickly become close friends and as the attraction grows they fall in love and have the fun of a senior citizen first date.

Their love affair continues to blossom and the old guy starts to plan to propose to his new love. However, we are soon informed that the couple are in fact already married. He has dementia and not recognising his wife, has fallen in love with her all over again, much to her delight.

Though I have revealed the main twist of the plot there are many other surprises which will delight you should you decide to watch the film.

What a wonderful story - and one which has a place in my literary heart forever.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


November 6th 1957 may not have been a particularly special day in the history of the world apart, of course, from the release of the Elvis Presley film 'Jailhouse Rock', but it was a pretty big day in the history of the Letts household. It was the day on which I became a teenager.

I had been preparing for this for some time and had for instance, already mastered the art of the five morning week by surfacing after midday at weekends.

Now that teenagedom was officially proclaimed, I started work on the scruffy image associated with youths my age and this had the not unexpected result of attracting comments from my parents along the lines of

"You don't think you're leaving the house looking like that do you?"

This usually meant returning to my bedroom and making a few slight adjustments to satisfy Mum and Dad's requirements of my image.

Having recently observed a group of teenagers loitering locally with no intent whatever, it occurs to me that they never had it so good. I would have stood no chance of leaving home looking the way they do now.

Indeed it strikes me that a few parental comparisons are in order.

1957: "Pull your trousers up - I can almost see your pants".
2011: "Push your trousers down - I didn't buy you those Calvin Klein pants for your birthday so you'd hide them".

1957: "You'll have to change those trousers. There's a hole in them".
2011: "Would you like me to make a few more holes in those distressed jeans?"

1957: "Oh dear. I think you need a new pair of shoes. Those are badly worn".
2011: "You need to scuff those trainers up they look brand new".

1957: "Tuck your shirt in".
2011: "Pull your shirt out".

and don't even start me going on the hairstyles.

Jealous? Moi?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


Tenacious lot those Japanese. You will remember the Japanese soldier who fought on after the Second World war, finally surrendering some twenty nine years after the war was over. Apparently his orders were:

"You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we'll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that's the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily."

So he lived on coconuts for twenty nine years.

Recently their country was devastated by a Tsunami which has caused a major nuclear disaster through damaging a reactor which is left in a highly volatile and critical state.

Ideally, people need to go in there to try to put things right but the likelihood of radioactive contamination would seem to make this unfeasible.

Their response has been to raise an army of volunteers comprising pensioners with the necessary skills including retired academics, crane and bulldozer operators, construction workers, welders and engineers.

These amazing people, recognising that younger workers would face the danger of suffering illness, impotence and even death, feel that their own lives, being almost over, are worth risking for the sake of their nation.

No funny quips to end with... I am just in absolute awe of their heroism.

(Image courtesy of John Kasawa)