Dec 18, 2008


What is going on across the road I wonder…?

Awoken abruptly from restless slumber at 7.30 a.m., to the jarring thunder of heavy trucks beeping backwards and forwards just meters from my windows – and then just as suddenly they were gone again - and there it is.
What is it?

But as the sky lightens, all is revealed. It is the Time Lord himself, in his flying loo! Quite obviously the Tardis is in for a refit - and this is the good Doctor’s brilliant compromise: A pre Christmas Day shopping visit to The Netherlands, in a flying Water Closet (in ‘loo’ of his planned appearance on British Christmas Day prime time telly! Ha ha)!
Makes sense to moi. But then, I’m on strong medication.

On second thoughts, that heap of dirt just visible next to the object, could well be the first tentative step by Dutch authorities to construct The Neth’s first mountain… Wow!
Dykes we have - ahem, in all shapes and sizes – but no mountains – and this W.C. cubicle is intended to accommodate the floods of tourists, shortly to ascend and plant flags on this newest world wonder!

Oh Glory. I could open a snack bar hatch in my panoramic window – and become famous for green sludge lentil Omega Brain Revitalizing soup! There’s still a batch in the freezer, left over from July: (Ref. posting July 1, 2008. 'Omega Oh My!').

However – and more sobering - the sudden appearance of an army of workmen armed with spades and fluorescent orange coats, also suggests that the local ‘Bods That Be’, have finally decided to landscape the large muddy area between two recently renovated blocks of flats.
A week before Christmas? Ach! (Derisive dutch throat clearing sound).

Think I’ll crawl back into bed. You never know, the camera might have lied (still learning how to upload it) and this might just be another drug induced dream, from which I’ll awaken in an hour or two to the aroma of scrambled eggs, toast and coffee, prepared by Russell Crowe (or Johnny Depp), in a plastic pinny!

Dec 14, 2008


Well now everyone in the family is on the mend - it’s my turn!

That’s right folks, this is me, felled like a snapping twig and confined to bed from last Thursday, with pneumonia and three broken ribs! Caused, believe it or not - by coughing!!!!!!!

Have heard of ‘splitting your sides laughing’, but breaking your ribs coughing...? That's a new one on me. Mind you, it was and still is, a mighty powerful cough! Starting weakly at the bottom of the lungs and wheezing up with gathering force - with no respite to take breath - and ending in a rattling drawn out whoop, loud enough to shake windows from their panes and tiles from roofs. OWWW!
According to the lung specialist it is not uncommon to break ribs coughing and can even occur while sneezing…good grief!

Anyway, my diet of tomato soup, lemonade and ice lollies has now been added to with a combination of antibiotics, prednisolon, fluimucil, serotide, flixonase, paracetamol/codine and arthrotec (also a pain killer) and all of which I am very grateful and thankful for – but which is leaving me as high as a kite!

Don’t know which mischievous Christmas Elf popped the hat on during my nap – but I think it’s meant to cheer me up.


(No, don’t mean that. Very glad to still be here! Now pardon me while I blow me dose...)

Nov 1, 2008


Phew..! That was scary – just met myself coming back on the train! Must have been me. I have been dashing and sleep walking hither and thither for the last few weeks (since returning from my Scottish holiday) lending a helping hand in a family (sickness) crisis. Have been returning home every 5 days or so, to check my mail and get a bit of sleep..zz.. before rushing off again.

As I mentioned to Steph of ‘the biopsy report’, who recently enquired as to ‘wherefore art I was’ (!) my main task has involved the night-shifts, caring for two little grandsons...YAWN.. and it seems that as soon as I have fed and changed the baby, rubbed Vick on his chest, sprayed salt solution up his tiny nostrils and settled the little chap down (for the umpteenth time between midnight and dawn) the 3 year old gets up needing a drink of water, a pee, a cuddle and a bit of a chat..(SCREAM!). Ah, I don't mean that. I could eat them up with a spoon really.

Seriously though, I have plumbed depths of energy and patience unplumbed for almost 40 years (since my youngest was a babe) and have battled the complexity of applying expensive, modern day elasticated paper nappies, to a tiny wriggling bottom - and having the fastening tags keep tearing off (!) Whatever was wrong with good old Terry towelling nappies(?)…. apart from having to dunk them in a bucket of cold water first, to rinse off that gooey, smelly, yellowy stuff and then having to boil, dry and air them…. Hmm. On second thoughts, I’ll master those tags!

And what about those modern day boxes of baby milk, designed to reduce Houdini to tears of frustration?! Apparently all you need to have, to open the lid, is strength, patience and double jointed index fingers and thumbs, pressing hard in sync’ at the back and front of the lid… and voila! Or in my case ‘#!!*?! It wont open’ (scream!) and reach for a knife….

But worst of all (and the stuff of which my granny nightmares are made) are those finger fumbling, technological baby appliances; such as child car seats; maxi-cosies; adjustable high-chairs; and folding pushchairs and prams - and all of them bristling with immovable levers, knobs and complicated strap fasteners, requiring the same kind of synchronized pressing, as the milk container. Only this time it is the sides of the clasp you have to press to release the fastening straps… grr.. And if you press one side out of sync’ with the other, the whole appliance gets stuck and won’t open (!) and the poor screaming baby is doomed to spend the rest of his/her days trapped in some unrelenting, brightly painted, musical, nursery rhyme singing appliance…sigh. Whatever happened to plain old buckles? How did (we) older generations manage without all this stuff?

Oh Lor’, as I said to Steph on ‘Highland Fling’ comments, I sound a right 'Moaning Minnie' now, don’t I, and I really don’t mean to be - but really, these last few (testing) weeks have set me thinking and I do wonder about the sanity of women in their sixties going off to that Italian fertility specialist for IVF...!!

Still, on the brighter side, all this baby-sitting activity has melted 5 kilos off my middle and I can actually zip and button my jeans again, without having to lay flat on the bed or floor, yippee!

Will be returning to my little charges tomorrow - but OOOOHHHH how blissfully I shall SLEEP in my own bed tonight!

Aug 27, 2008


Ah…less than 48 hours to go and the holiday feeling is almost upon me! Suitcase packed; passport and e-ticket in order; house tidy; spare key ready to bring to neighbour (for plant watering); contact details next to phone; etc.. etc..

O.K. and now like Geri’s esteemed ancestors, who pre-enacted their hunting strategies in red ochre on the walls of their caves, I plot my route methodically by scribbling it down in red ink on a bit of paper. Not as you may think, to pre savour the journey - but more as a precaution against getting hopelessly lost en route; if not at Schiphol/Amsterdam airport, then definitely at Gatwick/London, during transit, or Inverness airport car park.

I hate Gatwick. I have been told that it is not a large airport but I just cannot get it ordered in my mind. I'm never sure which terminal I have arrived in, let alone the one I am supposed to fly from. So getting from South to North terminal (or vice-versa) on the tube-train, with only minutes to spare to catch a connecting domestic flight, is a heart stopping nightmare… !

But this time I am cannily prepared and determined to get to my destination in one piece, complete with luggage (do you hear that BA!?).
Travel plus waiting and transfer times = a 10 hour journey from the completely flat (nether) lands of Holland, to a mountaintop in Scotland. OK, so now I have disclosed my holiday destination, hopefully it will not be jinxed – again! (ref': Holiday Curse, 14/07/08)

Plan: Lock front door and trundle suitcase, handbag and self onto tram - train - 1st plane - tube train - second plane – mountain jeep.
Note: Fill handbag with brain food: i.e., chocolate of all varieties, to help with thinking and concentration during journey.

Of course the biggest dragon on this journey for me, is that self-service check-in machine at Amsterdam airport…(gulp…shudder…). I can never work out which buttons to press and it always tells me it can’t find my booking and doesn’t recognise my passport etc.. So knowing the instant panic I shall feel at the sight of the thing, I plan to skip the hyperventilation stage - and immediately clamp myself around the knees of one of those young uniformed attendants and querulously beg her to ‘please, oh please, please, please check me in!’ (It worked last time, heh-heh..).

OK folks, that’s yours truely done for a while then! No television, computer, cell-phone, ipod. I’m off to look at wild birds, wee beasties and men in kilts; yodel from the mountaintops and try and get some fantastic photos. Probably be misty all the time I am there… no, no, be optimistic Geri. This time you will not forget to take your camera; get into any embarrassing senile situations, cause any international incidents, get lost or break any bones!

T.t.f.n. everyone. Enjoy your own holidays - and be safe xxx !

Aug 23, 2008


Wealthy Mexicans who are terrified of being kidnapped, are having themselves implanted with GPS chips…

Well I think it is a brilliant idea! We should all do it. After all, we get it done to our pets, so why not to ourselves? Not that most of us will ever get kidnapped – but there are other dangers, like walking under a ladder and getting a bucket on your head and forgetting who you are… Or getting shipwrecked and stranded on a desert island – and then just think how comforting it would be to know that whilst desperately stabbing at fish in a rock pool - with that pointy bit on your belt buckle - you are merrily ‘blipping’ away to some overhead satellite and will soon be found! (Hopefully not by pirates…)

The obvious problem though is where to go to get chipped? As far as I know, doctors in the Netherlands do not (yet) chip people. Euthanasia yes – but no chipping. So that would mean nipping off to Mexico and that’s too far – so off to the vet's it is then!

Hang on though… in which part of the anatomy would this chip be inserted…? The back of animals’ necks may be suitable for them but there is no extra skin to get hold of on mine. The upper thigh strikes me as a suitable place; however, these chip thingies are not magnetic are they? That would make no sense at all but you never know, technology can be tricky - and I would rather not find out when it is too late and I am 'stuck' to some doddery old chipped chap on the tram (‘chipped chap on the tram'… crikey, don’t say that fast with a mouth full of biscuit! Hang on, while I wipe the screen...).

Wait a minute though, I am not above a bit of doddering myself, so if this fellow and I were stuck on each other through no fault of our own (heh-heh) we could dodder off together and have a bit of fun - and when we were tired of each other (or just tired) we could sit down and ‘blip’ - and wait for our (worried) kids to drive out and find us and take us home!
(Just when did I get so decadent and daft...?)

Anyway, here it is: Wealthy Mexicans getting chipped.

Aug 8, 2008


Practically everyone in our family seems to have a ‘house ghost’ of the common-or-garden variety: i.e., opening doors and blowing draughts down your neck - just when you’ve got comfy in front of the telly; hiding your specs, shoes, door keys; souring the milk and causing the tap to drip in the middle of the night…etc. But all of this is minor stuff compared to the antics of my auntie’s house spook...

Eons ago, whilst still a teenager, I was visiting my aunt when she suddenly exclaimed that her cup of tea had disappeared. Thinking that she might have walked into the kitchen with it, we searched there and even checked the cupboards to make sure she hadn’t absentmindedly finished the tea and rinsed the cup and saucer and put them away... but no luck.

‘Perhaps you took your cuppa up the garden with you when we went to admire the runner beans’, I ventured.
And so we searched the whole garden and even looked in the dustbin, thinking that she might have drank the tea and (again) absentmindedly thrown the empty cup and saucer away - but all to no avail. Cup, contents and saucer were gone - apparently vanished into a parallel universe(!)

A few years later, after I had moved to The Netherlands, a Dutch relative by marriage, went to England on business for a few days and stayed with my aunt, in her big old spooky house. But on returning home, he told me he would never stay there again!

Me: Oh, why on earth not?

Him: Well…on the first night, I was almost asleep when I heard the coins I’d put on the dressing table being moved. Not toppling over, but being methodically moved- you know - one by one… I thought it might be a mouse…

Me: Haha! A mathematical mouse? Ahem. Sorry, what did you do?

Him: I put the light on - but there was nothing there. Then on the second night, I woke up suddenly to hear the bedroom door handle rattling, so I leaped out of bed and rushed over and grabbed the handle and pulled, but the door wouldn’t budge. It felt as if someone was holding it, so I gave it a big yank and there was suddenly no resistance and I rushed out onto the landing – but there was no one there!

Me: A suction draught perhaps? From open windows..?

Him: There weren’t any windows open… But then on the third night, I was laying in bed listening to your auntie snoring when I heard the stairs creaking, one by one, from top to bottom… (shiver).

Me: Well perhaps Auntie was sleep walking?

Him: No. The snores were coming from her room. I checked. But when I was back in bed the creaking started again and there was a rustling noise like someone going through the coat pockets in the hallway downstairs. So I rushed downstairs to look and even called out – but once again, there was no one and nothing there....

Me: More mice…. perhaps? (Said without conviction).

Him: (Pale faced by now). No. Then on the fourth and last night, after I’d put the light out in my room, I saw a shadowy figure standing by the window (!) but when I put the light on again, it wasn’t there. Might have been the fall of the curtain…but I…er… (sheepishly) left the light on all night.....

Me: (Even paler). Oo-er….Did you tell my aunt all this?

Him: Yes, just before I left.

Me: And….?

Him: Well she didn’t laugh at me or anything, in fact she was seriously interested, staring intently at my face all the time - although by the time I had finished I was sure she was mocking me!

Me: Why?

Him: Well, after telling her all that - and feeling like a right fool, all she said was:
'Tell me my dear - was that shadowy figure by any chance carrying a cup of tea?’

Aug 5, 2008

A, E, I, O, U

Fnlly gt th cmpter fxd - nd nw th kybrd's 'n th blnk!

S**m t hv lst th vwls..... Hd thm lst wk, bt tht ws bfr tkng th lttrs 'ff t' cln th d*rn thng...

Frst th m**s* f'll t bts - 'nd ' cldn't pt 't bck tgthr gn. Ws 2 wks wtht hlp, bt hpply, Sn-n-lw fnlly fxd 't... bt nw ths.......

Whr.. r.. my..vwls?!!

Jul 17, 2008


The Anti-Virus program on this computer is behaving more like the viruses it is supposed to be protecting me from! Not content with suddenly flashing red warnings every time I try downloading a new website - and then 'stopping the computer till I solve the problem' - it is now chucking me off the web each time I try downloading anything from the ‘favourites’ folder!

The last (and third) time I logged on today, before being unceremoniously turfed out again, I found two thirds of the ‘favourites’ contents removed and a message telling me that if I wish to alter this state of affairs, I should go to ‘Internet Options’…. Not only that but that crazy, mad Anti-Virus is whisking every bit of mail into the spam folder – including the invoice from my Internet Provider and the latest online photos of the Grandkids… grrr..
I can forgive it chucking invoices in the bin - but don’t mess wiv de family!

I appear to have a Trojan horse virus in quarantine but that has always been there (like a stray animal that wanders in and stays) and is low risk – so why is Anti-Virus behaving like this…?
Hmm… I see that the AV subscription is due for renewal next month, so perhaps this is its unsubtle way of reminding me? If so, it is biting its viral nose off to spite it’s invisible face, because all this annoying behaviour is doing, is tempting me to buy a completely new Anti-Virus system altogether. DID YOU HEAR THAT YOU MANIPULATIVE GREMLIN??

On the other hand, I did manage (when Anti-Virus was busy attacking something else in ‘Settings and Network Connections’ and not watching me) to secretly download info’ and read up on how difficult and messy it will be to attempt to remove the thing; entailing all kinds of ‘clean up wizard’ downloads, as well as a Masters in computer programming - because it would appear that AV has wormed its insidious way into every nook and cranny of my comp’ and taken it thoroughly hostage.

Ok, Ok, I give in! I promise to renew you! Are you reading this Most Superiour Anti-Viral being?? Will you now please let me remove myself safely from ‘Word’ and log back onto the Internet long enough to sign into my blog and post this? NO? All right then…grr…I admit it, you are cleverer than me; I am a mere mortal; a nothing; you are the brain…. I grovel before you….
Sob! Please let me back in – and stop chucking me off every time I click on ‘favourites’!! I promise to have no more favourites. You will be my only one. My favourite (choke) Anti-Virus program…forever....


Jul 14, 2008


I don’t know what it is – and maybe it is nothing more than coincidence or fate – but every time I seriously consider somewhere as a potential holiday destination, whether the country of my dreams is near or far, something very unhealthy happens there!

Sudden riots, crippling strikes, terror acts, a spate of tourist kidnappings, or some kind of natural catastrophe, have all taken place within the last few years in countries on my holiday list. Now while I don’t blame myself for these happenings, it has sort of unnerved me. So my next holiday destination will remain a strict secret. In fact, even to myself I shall only refer to it as ‘that holiday place I am not going to until I get there’.

O.K. so now I am being silly – and am also surprising myself at how superstitious (and paranoid) I sound! Still, this time I am not taking any chances. So shhh… ! All I will say is that it is a volunteer project in a very faraway from Europe land and will take me a couple more years to save for the ticket (to that holiday place I am not going to…)

In the meantime, I don’t know about the rest of Europe but the sun has actually condescended to shine its haughty face on us water logged Dutch and so I shall remove the bright yellow cling film that I put on my windows and sunglasses last week to cheer myself up - and toddle off to the shops!
Happy holidays to everyone, wherever you are – and I promise not to come and join you!

Jul 11, 2008


02:37 a.m. and still wide awake. Have decided to bore myself to sleep with this:-

The sound of jelly

Sounds a bit like water at first but livens up around the 2 minute mark, if you can wait that long. If not, just cheat and push the cursor-knob-thingy along a bit.....

ZZZZZ.... Aha! Did you see that? Sleep typing! I actually dropped off. Either that or this is a dream and I'll wake up in a minute with my ear stuck to something really nasty.

Just have another listen.....Eeouw (!) that is really odd......thwack...thwack....dithery whack....

Yup... it's definately jelly and I think it might be doing the trick....zzz....

G'night all!

P.S. Oh lor' I do hope I don't dream about the horrible wobbly stuff. Puts me in mind of an ancient Tommy Cooper joke:
'Dreamed I was eating a ten pound marshmallow last night - woke up this morning and my pillow was gone!' *b'dum b'dum!*
(Can't imagine what I might find missing, dreaming about jelly......)?

Jul 9, 2008


Insomnia is a terrible affliction and I must have tried every remedy and trick in the book... sigh... to get a good nights sleep. Everything except sleeping pills that is, which I am scared will have the same effect as the terrifying sleep paralysis I also occasionally suffer from - and warm milk, which is an abomination..!

The strange thing is, I can easily fall asleep on the settee with the telly blaring away - but once my head hits the pillow the eyes fly open and stay that way till after dawn. Every once in a while, when really overtired, I’ll drop into a coma around 4.a.m and sleep till past noon. It’s dreadful when this happens, because waking up feels as though I’m fighting my way out of a clinging, foggy syrup…where monsters hold me down in a vice like grip and sit on my chest till I can’t breathe… then at the very last moment, when I’m turning blue… they release me and let me wake up…WHEEZE…(!) shaking and sweating, to find I’ve slept half the day away. Bah!

But apparently all the evil spawn of insomnia, such as irritability, headache, forgetfulness and clumsiness - can now be beaten! An article dated 23 June 2008, in Times Online, under the title: ‘Elderly dehydrated in care homes’, is waxing lyrical at how 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, is proving a rejuvenating miracle for elderly folk!

Quoting from the article: Gary Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of Action on Elder Abuse said:

“It is amazing that something as simple and straightforward as water could have such wide benefits for care home residents, including a reduction in falls, better sleeping patterns and less agitation…..”

He also said a lot more but this was the bit that got my attention and so I decided to try it – and hal-ay-loo-ya it really is a miracle! Sloshing to the W.C. 30 times a day and night has worn me out entirely!

On the downside though, I am now frantically searching the web for articles on combating water intoxication and water retention – cuz, oo-eee, excuse me - if I suddenly laugh or sneeze….

Jul 6, 2008


I am standing outside my front door chatting to a neighbour, when the clatter of horses’ hooves draws our attention to two magnificent police horses turning into our street. Whether by accident or design the horses are a matching sandy brown and their riders sit high and haughty in the saddles, resplendent in their blue police uniforms.

‘Now that’s a fine sight…’ I begin, but as they draw abreast of us the nearest horse is obviously agitated, tossing his head and rolling a baleful eye.
‘He’s gonna crap!’ Yells my neighbour’s young son, jumping up and down with glee - and sure enough as the horse strolls past, he lets fly with endless dollops of thick, smelly yellow manure.

My neighbour clicks her tongue in disgust and shooing her delighted progeny before her, picks her way through the piles of steaming poo to their house across the road, leaving me staring after the horses. In my mind I am five years old again and back in England at my grandparent’s house. The coal man’s horse has just passed by and the cry has gone out: Horse muck! Horse muck! And at every house in the immediate vicinity, kids are scrambling to grab buckets and spades and be the first to collect the inevitable booty left by this hard working animal.

‘Just what my roses need.’ Laughs granddad, egging my cousin and I on.
‘A penny each for a bucketful!’
As the youngest by two years, I would hold the bucket, while my cousin shovelled frantically. The kids who lived next door were about our ages and competition was fierce! Still, there always seemed enough to go round and my cousin and I would struggle back to granddad with our bucket of steaming bounty, to collect our reward. A penny in those days would fill the whole of a child’s palm and I would stare down at my huge, hard earned copper coin with satisfaction. A sherbet dab, pink sugar mouse, gobstopper, thin chocolate bar wrapped in tin foil… the mouth-watering treats this coin would buy were endless!

A passing car jerks me from my reverie. There are still no children anywhere to be seen and my neighbour across the road is calling me over for a cup of tea. As we sit in her back garden my eyes are drawn to a bag of fertilizer pellets standing next to her rose bushes. Clean, efficient, no pungent odour… and the only bucket and spade to be seen are the brightly coloured plastic ones in her child’s sandpit.

As I return home the horse manure is still there but almost completely flattened and crisscrossed with the tire treads of passing cars. But all is not wasted – a couple of magpies are pecking animatedly in the remains.
‘Ah well’, I mutter. ‘Peck away. After the street sweeper car has been tomorrow there will be no trace of it at all. That’s progress for you; a clean and sanitized world – but not half as much fun!’

Jul 3, 2008


The fully automated self-service supermarket has arrived! This remarkable new technology requires shoppers to scan the bar code on each item, before placing it onto an electronic surface, which then transports the item at high speed through strips of rubber curtain down a very long conveyor belt. Payment is made by PIN card at the beginning of the conveyor belt, in an adapted machine that also delivers a bar coded receipt. You are then free to hurry after your purchases and bag everything up in the five seconds before the next customer’s items start arriving and getting mixed up with your own! Once you are done, you can let yourself – sweating and panting - out of the area, by holding your receipt up to yet another scanner next to an electronic gate.

Long before that stage though, your blood pressure has reached danger level, because once you have scanned an item and it has gone through the rubber curtain, you can only see it if you stop what you are doing and peer around a large metal hood. The same goes for the customer facing you, on the other side of ‘your’ scanner. Both yours and their items are separated on the communal conveyor belt by a ten centimeter high divider and it is just not high enough! By the time all the items have piled up at the end of the conveyor belt, they are spilling over into each other’s side.

You and your ‘opponent’ inevitably end up in a feverish race to finish and get to the end of the conveyor belt first - but if you fumble an item, a beeper and flashing light goes off on the scanner, which means having to wait for an assistant to come and fiddle about with a key and reset it! Grrr… This only happens to you of course, never the other person (!) which means that they are out of sight and bagging their groceries before you are finished - leaving you frantically hoping they don’t pack up any of your stuff along with their own!

This happened to me only once. A packet of teabags I had scanned and paid for was gone from the end of the conveyor belt when I got there and nobody pinches my tea! I complained to the manager and I probably wasn’t the only one, because since then there have been two frazzled assistants on duty at the end of five double conveyor belts, rushing frantically backwards and forwards trying to separate and stack each customer’s purchases as they arrive.

Of course with two stackers replacing ten cashiers the supermarket is making a saving, which might help keep prices down a bit. So why am I secretly glad that the three other supermarkets in the area are still using ‘old fashioned’ cash registers? Well, shuffling along in a queue is much better for the old blood pressure and I don’t get that awful knot in the pit of my stomach. There is also the chance of a bit of conversation with other customers, whereas the only person who ever talks to me in the self-service supermarket is me (!) cursing under my breath from the moment I set foot in the place, till the moment I get to the electronic exit gate - and find I’ve packed my bar coded receipt at the bottom of the shopping bag!.... Howl!!

Jul 1, 2008


Gleefully, I rub my hands and hover over the lentil soup pan like a witch over a cauldron. Oh this is going to be great! A huge pan of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, bubbling away - and almost ready to reboot my ageing brain, into a quick firing neuronal miracle!

I read somewhere that Omega 3 and 6 are supposed to be good for the brain but until recently assumed they were only found in oily fish – which apparently it is not advisable to consume too much of, because of its mercury content. Now I have never eaten lentils in my life and don’t even know how I discovered that this particular foodstuff is rich in Omega fatty acids but apparently it is and I am thrilled (!) because I like vegetable soup.

One large carrot and onion, one diced potato and two vegetable bullion blocks have all been added to the mix and it is now three quarters of an hour later and my brain food is ready to taste! It is very green. All the other ingredients seem to have dissolved. Carefully, I ladle out a dishful and view it thoughtfully. It looks like dark green sludge – not aesthetically pleasing but it smells good – and what wonders it will perform! Eagerly I dip my spoon and raise it to my lips. Eyes closed – taste – savour – swallow…. not bad at all! I can almost feel those incumbent grey cells stirring….

Two dishes later and I contemplate another. It tastes all right but it is very filling… in fact, on second thoughts I decide not to eat a third dish. The other two are settling on my stomach rather like a block of cement. I also feel very thirsty and guzzle two glasses of water.

Another half hour has past and I am now feeling slightly queasy… Lord, I hope this stuff works quickly! I try a little brain exercise test: one times twelve is twelve…gurgle …, two times twelve is…burp… Ow! Really churning now. With some dismay, I glance over at the soup pan. It still contains enough green sludge for at least another ten meals…. Oh dear, a word to the wise, if you are thinking of making lentil soup, use a small pan!
Oh well, life is nothing if not suprising… at least I learned something new today....groan..

Jun 29, 2008


Insects are not a life force I usually think much about, except when swatting a pesky fly or trying to eradicate a plague of ants from the larder. But since last night, after transferring a particularly large moth from the kitchen ceiling into a glass and releasing it into the night, I have been thinking about some particular kinds of insects a lot - and wondering where on earth they are…!

It has suddenly dawned on me that I have not seen a wasp for at least eight years. There was a time that it was impossible to sit in the garden or on a restaurant terrace during summertime, without being besieged by aggressive, black and yellow would-be assassins. So where are they now? Is it just my own city corner of the planet that they (seem to) have disappeared from? Not that I miss them (!) having been chased and painfully stung by them on a number of occasions – but where are they all?

Come to think of it, I have not seen a sparrow for years either. I can remember a time when flocks of sparrows would swoop down into my garden in Amsterdam at least twice a day during the 1990s. Then almost overnight or so it seemed, they stopped coming and were replaced by blackbirds and magpies. I have recently moved to another major city but it is the same story here too.

Did/do sparrows eat wasps? Has the disappearance of one caused the disappearance of the other? And what about bees? I know that the world is mystified by the disappearance of whole hives of bees and that this phenomenon presents a potentially catastrophic problem for agriculture: i.e., no bees, no pollination. Bats too, seem to be disappearing in their millions… Perhaps all the communication satellites circling our globe are disrupting bats’ sonar (?) It is all very strange…

As ‘my’ moth flew away last night, I watched her go and worried. A quadrangle of newly renovated flats across the way lit up the surrounding area with dozens of gallery lights - and to a little disorientated moth it must have looked like the moon. Shivering, even though the night was warm, I hoped fervently that she would turn and fly the other way, towards the darkened park, with its many bushes and trees and sleeping flowers…. I hoped she would hear the call of her own kind and meet a friend and thoroughly enjoy her short life!

I have never hoped for anything for a moth before, except perhaps (for both of us) that it not fly into my hair (!) but as I sit and gaze out of my window today, onto a predominance of concrete technology and bustling humanity – the survival and happiness of that one small lost moth, suddenly seems like one of the most important things in the world.

Jun 27, 2008


Waiting for the tram yesterday morning I was struck by the diversely colourful attire of the female commuters - but what grabbed my attention the most, were not the clothes - but the ladies feet! Female toenails to be exact, in all shapes, sizes and colours, peeping out from all manner and style of sandals.

Standing between two women I recognised as neighbours from my street, my eyes were riveted by the sight of our toes. My own honey yellow offerings twinkled up at me from between red cherry to the left and deep purple plum to the right and in the ten minutes we waited for the tram, we were joined by orange fizz, green apple, black liquorice, juicy blueberry and raspberry pink!

Fascinated and amused, I nudged both neighbours - who were chattering in Dutch behind my bent head - to take a look at the multicoloured phenomenon below. Glancing down and chuckling briefly, they were about to resume their conversation when I injected an item of my own.
‘The sight of all these toes is making my mouth water!’
The neighbour on the left looked blank but the one on the right smiled nervously and shifted slightly away. Then the tram arrived and we all piled in and got separated.

As we trundled along, I mused on that ‘look’. I get this a lot in the Netherlands. Even after all the years I’ve lived here the language can still stump me. It’s no good just insinuating something the way you would in English and expect the subtlety of your wit to be understood. In Dutch you must explain yourself properly and I suddenly realised that what I should have said was: ‘The nail varnishes all have names of fruits and the thought of them is making my mouth water.’ Which if you’ve got to explain it that much has killed the whole point of saying it in the first place and it wasn’t what I meant anyway! Darn it! So now by the time the sun goes down, everyone in our street will think I’ve got a foot fetish!

Oh well, let them think what they like, I couldn’t care less, because my mouth was still watering and it was the toenails themselves causing it - but only because the sight of all those shiny, round, multicoloured little objects had given me an overwhelming craving for a bag of M and M’s!

Jun 25, 2008


It has been a while since I have seen identical twins - but like the bus that never comes and then three turn up at once, last week I saw three sets of monozygotic children in two days! What are the odds? At first I thought there must be a convention in town, but not so. The four little girls and two toddler boys, were shopping with their families and playing in the park and obviously at home in the area.

What fascinated me the most though, was not so much the succession of three sets of identical twin facial features – unexpected and lovely as they all were - but the fact that in this modern day and age, with its emphasis on individuality and freedom of expression, none of the children were identically dressed. Not even colour co-ordinated!

How different western society is now from the early nineteen-twenties, when my grandmother always dressed my mother and aunt - who are twins - and another aunt, just twelve months older, in identical outfits. From their underwear right up to their bonnets, coats and little white gloves, they were always dressed exactly the same - and woe betide them if they ever mismatched themselves!

Everywhere they went they were stopped and poked and exclaimed over and pinched on the cheeks - and hated it! But never more so than when all three were sitting in their identical Sunday outfits on a park bench one day, and a little lad of about seven, stopped transfixed before them.
‘Mam! Mam! Ecstatic and wild eyed with excitement he leaped up and down, choking on his aniseed ball.
‘Mam! Maaam! Hurry! C’mon, quick! Loook, look what I’ve found! Giblets!’*

(* For the non culinary - the gizzard and visceral organs of a fowl - bleugh!)

Jun 24, 2008


An elderly neighbour of mine is having difficulties with her dentures. Every time she laughs, they drop out of her mouth, which makes her laugh even more and sets the rest of us off, putting the entire floor in danger of being littered with false teeth!
Fortunately it is a predicament I have been able to avoid up until now – not having any dentures - but the whole situation puts me in mind of an event in early childhood that traumatized the living daylights out of me and preordained me never to become a dentist!

When I was about three, a neighbour of ours, a certain Mrs. R., who for some strange reason I had renamed Mrs. Football, was feeling poorly - and so mother and I stopped by on our way to the shops, to see if there was anything we could fetch for her. I remember tiptoeing after mother into a strange bedroom - and almost fainting with horror at the sight of the usually quite pretty Mrs. Football, with her mouth all sunken in - and her teeth and gums and the whole roof of her mouth in a glass beside her bed! It was beyond my infantile comprehension. She must be in agony!
But why wasn’t mother screaming as loudly as me and rushing me out of there?! Why was she pocketing Mrs. Football’s shopping list and picking me up and hanging me over the bed to kiss the poor suffering lady farewell…..oh no, no....help..help!

The gaping, sunken mouth slobbered over my cheek and… the rest is lost within the black and bottomless depths of a part of my psyche that is still three years old and getting dragged back across the road to change her ‘disgusting, wet knickers’ and have a cold wet cloth slapped on the back of her neck…

Toothless people don’t scare me anymore now of course – but if I ever have to give up what natural teeth I have left, I vow - on the memory of poor Mrs. Football - that I will never, never, never let my young grandchildren see me without my dentures in! Although of course, they are growing up in a completely different world to the one I grew up in and might think I look hilarious (?!) Still, it would probably be better not to chance it – there is after all a chronic shortage of dentists nowadays…

Jun 23, 2008


Once upon a time, an elderly lady decided to start a blog. Every article she wrote was an original, true depiction of an event and/or circumstance relating to her own life and devoid of any kind of malicious intent. Confined often to her house by ill health the elderly lady was pleased to have a new hobby and decided to share her new blog with the world by submitting it to various online mediums to attract more traffic and make online friends.

Everything went well and having successfully submitted her happy little blog to various established and excellent blog directories the elderly lady decided to entrust it once more to a relatively new up and coming venue, of apparent good reputation. The venue was pleased to accept the elderly lady’s blog – they said so in a welcoming email - and both parties were happy. Unfortunately for the elderly lady, not long after she had installed the venue’s widget to her blog, she accidentally deleted it again. Alarmed by this the elderly lady immediately typed the password given to her by the venue, into the ‘members’ section of the venue’s website, to get another widget - but the members section didn’t work. Instead, there was a message saying that the members section was being repaired and would be ready on a date that was already long past (?). Confused the elderly lady then emailed the venue’s ‘support’ forum at an email address supplied in their welcoming email, to ask them what to do. The elderly lady’s email came back as undeliverable and stating that the delivery service had given up trying.

Days later and still unable to login with the password the venue had sent to her the elderly lady decided to request that the venue delete her blog from their website - and sent a polite message to that effect, to the venue’s ‘administration’ and ‘customer service’ email addresses, as set out in their TOA. These emails also came back within 48 hours as undeliverable.

Determined not to give up the elderly lady then discovered a ‘member support forum’ under a different name, on the venue’s site. After being requested to think up and enter another username and password to register for this forum the elderly lady was eventually able to place a question asking why none of the contact emails worked. Her question was answered by a predated general announcement, that due to too much spam all the venue’s contact email accounts were not used anymore. Following the advice given to another member also asking (at an earlier date) how he could remove his blog from the venue's website the elderly lady contacted one of the online administrators in a private email on the forum and asked politely - using words like ‘please’ and ‘with respect’ and ‘at your earliest convenience’, that her blog be removed from the venue. Within 24 hours the elderly lady received a copy of her own polite email back again, with a short one line announcement underneath it saying that her blog had been removed from the venue and not to try submitting it again. (No comment...!)

A couple of days later the elderly lady went online and typed the title name of her blog into her browser to see where it was in two major search engines. Happily the elderly lady’s blog was depicted on page one in both search engines, in no less than three different positions (places). Imagine then her surprise, to see that one of those positions was a ‘black listing’, by the same venue that had tersely agreed to delete her blog - announcing that they had removed the elderly lady’s blog for being an ‘inappropriate blog' and following this announcement with a list of criteria pertaining to what constitutes an inappropriate blog: i.e., junk blogs, ones containing pornographic and racial content, profanity, homophobia, plagiarized material, hacking.. etc…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hmm..... a big dose of ‘sour grapes’ on the part of the venue? A moot point anyway - because lets face it, if 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating' , then 'the quality of the blog is in its content' - and truth will always out!

Jun 20, 2008


There is an awful ‘pong’ hanging over our part of the city.
It has been growing in intensity all day long and there is a distinct yellow tinge to the atmosphere.

It is a mysterious odour, quite unlike the usual 'niff' that wafts occasionally over our suburbs, from the vehicle choked city center. This is obviously much more serious and neighbours gather in consternation, clutching their noses. Blame is soon directed at the bustling seaport of Rotterdam, situated ‘half an hour down south’, with its major league industry terrains and warehouses.

Wad de yer dink dat stink is?
Don’t doe.
Its cubbing over from Dotterdam harbour.
D’yer dink zo?
Smells like sulphur…’n smoke!
Sloke? Oh doe! Not sloke!
Anudder warehouse or container on fire, or mebbe a ship?
A ship? Hope not, dat’ll go up like a bum!
Yeah...you doe, BOOM!

We frown and choke and hurry home to slam windows and bring in washing.
There are no birds in the trees and no breeze disturbs the heavy, yellowish air.
My eyes are smarting and I hurry back with a neighbour to her house to turn on the local television channel. There is no mention of anything amiss and so we phone the local fire station and the council in search of an explanation. Our wheezing anxiety is met with assurances that 'dere is nudding to worry about’ – which of course means that there is.

The fetid air is with us all day and well into the evening and impossible to keep out of our homes. Like many others, I gasp and choke my way through dinner and divert myself with thinking back to the past - and the years I lived in the farming Dutch countryside, with its continuous stench of bovine excrement….(ugh…). I can honestly say with hand on heart, that given the choice between an occasional dose of burning sulphur and a daily infusion of stinking cow poo…...dere’s doe contest!

Jun 19, 2008


Birds of a feather are all of a dither! A recent television program revealed a male osprey flying back to the nest with his prey and proceeding to tear strips of it and feed them to his young. So what’s wrong with that? Well, that’s what I thought but the commentator almost fell out of his tree! This is obviously big news. Evolution gone haywire.

Apparently male ospreys just don’t do that sort of thing. His job is strictly to bring back the prey, dump it, screech at the wife how wonderful he is - and then fly off and hunt for more.
In her turn, Mrs. O. will screech back at him that he’s nothing special, fluff herself up a bit and proceed to stuff bits of fish down her children’s monstrous throats. And now here she is, this poor creature, all ruffled and perplexed and out of a job! Cast aside like last year’s feather duster.

I strongly suspect the hand of human technology - as in the human birth control pill - in this evolutionary quandary. In my opinion ‘the pill’ has finally polluted the ground water to the extent that the evolutionary perfected Mr. Osprey, has been tipped over the edge into his feminine side!

This is just the beginning. Mark my words. I would not be at all surprised if one day all male birds are behaving like Mr. O. - and from there, it is just a short evolutionary step to male birds with moobs*.

In fact that future scenario might not even be ‘strictly for the birds’. As ground water everywhere becomes even more contaminated with estrogen, it might be that eventually all species will become androgynous …? Caw! (I mean Cor!) The mind boggles....

Think I’ll leave further discussion on that topic to the experts.
I’m off to feed the ducks.... and drakes.

* male boobs.

Jun 18, 2008


The shop was closing and everyone was impatient to go home but as I hovered over the make-up counter, I was transported briefly back to the sixties. Ah…the ‘groovy’ sixties and we - the ‘fab’ lasses - with our pale pink bee-stung lips, pancake foundation and Cathy McGowan fringes hanging over permanently charcoaled rimmed eyes!

Fond memories…and being a teenager during that era, I still feel naked if I venture out without make-up, even though these days it is just a touch of powder, soft red lipstick and a light grey eyebrow pencil. It was an eyebrow pencil that I wanted to buy and as the shop assistant began pointedly closing the door, I made my purchase and hurried apologetically out.

Seven o’clock next morning and I was up and raring to go! I had been invited out for the day and after squinting into the mirror and skillfully working away the ravages of time, I was pleased with the result and confident to face the world.
Surprisingly, even the rush hour commuters seemed cheerful that morning, nodding and smiling at me and at each other and offering me a seat. The ticket inspector too was in rare good form, winking as he clipped my ticket and whistling and grinning his way through the packed compartment. I don’t think I have ever had such a pleasant train journey and the hour it took seemed no time at all.

Stepping out at my destination I found a bench and waited. I was being met and had a couple of minutes to tidy my appearance. The compact mirror showed everything still in place, right up from my soft red lips and lightly powdered cheeks to my jade green eyebrows.
My what…?! Uncomprehending, I fumbled in my bag for the new eyebrow pencil… and there it was. Jade green! I had picked up the wrong colour and had not even noticed, in that awful neon lighting and in my rush to get out of the shop. Not only that but with no window in my bathroom and only another small neon to see by, grey and green looked the same there too - aagghh!

Oh the horror…. all those people on the train grinning - and me thinking it was because of my infectious cheery charm - and all the time it was because they thought I was some dingbat pensioner let loose with a crayon box!
Frantically, I spat on a tissue. My ride was sweeping up to the station and with one last despairing glance at my newly ‘naked’ eyes, I decided that the lipstick was too much by itself and wiped that away as well - along with my very last drop of self-confidence.....!

‘Hi Mam!” My daughter’s greeting was warm and cheery and we planted kisses on each other’s cheeks.
Stepping backwards she smiled appreciatively ‘…and what have you been doing to yourself? You look different - sort of fresh and nice – and no, not nice, you look absolutely great!’

Ah bless her. XXXXXX!

Jun 16, 2008


I was messing about in the background and Technorati told me to create this test post to start a ball rolling and release spiders...oo-er..

Technorati Profile
Something is happening...


Oh 'eck, something's gone wrong again. Have just claimed my blog at Technorati and everything went like a dream (which should have warned me!) and then I came to the part that offered me a wonderful new widget, showing rank, photo, links, tag cloud etc., and so I edited and saved my choices and copied the code - and tried to place it in the sidebar with an Add an Element Javascript thingy - but my lovely new widget didn't appear. So I've removed the Javascript sidebar Element I pasted it into - and am now wondering if I am supposed to insert the widget code into the actual HTML template....and if so, where exactly?

Oh lord, off we go again! Looks as though I'll be trawling all of Technorati's FAQ pages, as well as posting SOS's out all over the web for the rest of the day..HELP!..

If there is one thing I've learned though since starting this blog, it is that preparation is nine tenths of success, so I've put the kettle on for a large pot of very strong tanin and am about to nip out and stock up on brain food: i.e., chocolate (!) - what else?! See ya!

Jun 15, 2008


‘Join a social networking site and be welcomed by hundreds – nay thousands - of likeminded sharing folk, all wanting to link hands around the world with you and line up in droves to visit your website/blog.’ Or words to that effect.

Lovely! Should be easy. Lets see… Click the ‘sign up now’ bar.
Choose a Username: *****
Fill in email: Done.
Think of a password: ***** Confirm password. *****.
‘This program can potentially harm your computer’.
Oh…er…shall I go on…? A little wary but all right – carry on.
‘Click to add tags to your toolbar’.
Toolbar? I thought I was going to be presented with a bit of code to copy and paste a cute little button onto my sidebar? Shall I go on? … Might as well - have come this far.
O.K. click on ‘Add Tags’. A box appears with instructions to click ‘Open’.
Computer whines loudly! What’s happening? The screen is now showing my hard disc…(I think) and good lord (!) it wants me to download 70 killer(?)bites of software?
What on earth for? All I want to do is join a little club of happy people and play virtual ‘pat-a-cake-pat-a-cake’ and it’s looking more like Geri’s going to ‘atishoo-atishoo’ and fall down on her virtual arse!
No no no, this is not what I expected.
Click out of this social networking site - and forget it!
Read email instead.
Ten minutes later…what’s this? An email from the social networking site, is beckoning me with subliminal chanting to finish the process of entering their golden portal.
Shall I? Shan’t I? Oh g’waan! Stop being a dithering old mardy cat. Take a chance – walk on the wild side! Pull on the crampons and dig in the axe!
O.K. I click on a blue link in the email.
A box appears. Do I want to ‘Run’ or ‘Save’? Er…Run, I think – but what's this bit underneath? A red shield announcing that this software program has no license?
Oh no, I am not going on. This is too complicated. Perhaps this is a hack site, masquerading as the real one and if I let it in it will spam my computer, molest googlebot, corrupt antivirus and assimilate what’s left of my mind!
Quick! Click on ‘cancel’ and close the site. Go back and delete the email. Go to start/ settings/control panel, to remove the social networking site – if it got that far. Ah good, it didn’t. Seems I stopped it just in time. Phew! So much for social networking clubs!

Perhaps I should try a senior citizen’s blogging forum instead? One with lots of old folks sitting around farting and chewing the fat. Armchair politics. Sex after sixty. The pros and cons of complete body makeovers. Sounds good!
Now lets see… Click into Forum Homepage…choose a Username… and fight off that little computer gremlin called Deja Vu….

Jun 13, 2008


I cannot kill a slug. Once by accident, I rode over a particularly fat and juicy one that squelched out into a revolting gooey mess all over the front tyre of my bike and for the life of me and I don’t know why, I felt like a cold blooded killer! Cold and green, like the slug’s remains.

I know it is probably downright loony to feel guilty about committing slugicide - but I can’t help it. Just moments before that particular slug ended up on my tyre, it had been a slug someone. A slug of substance, with an evolutionary line dating back to primeval crud. A slug with family and connections all over the world. In fact at my last 'gound floor flat with garden out back', most of its relations seemed to live there, in the garden - demolishing plants and wolfing the cats’ food and leaving slimey trails – but if you are a slug, it’s what you do. It’s your job.

So, to atone for my earlier crime, I became a slug crusader. You have probably noticed that touching a slug will cause it to draw in its little antlers and curl up into a sticky, gungy lump and so every time I found one, I would pick it up with newspaper, to prevent ten minutes of yukky finger dee-slime-ing…! Then, after pottering around the garden and collecting a plant pot full of slugs, I would re-house them to the long grass by the canal at the end of the road. A harmless pastime that amused the local kids, causing them to trail after me chanting:
‘Slugs! Slugs! Eeouw, slugs!’
Yes indeed, I was and on occasion still am - ‘Slug Woman’!!
I even wrote a poem about slugs once:

Having no perception of up and down,
Of space and distance and light,
When the rock was moved,
The slug rolled out
And promptly died of fright!

Unless of course they get ‘slugged’ by a bike first, then they get put on a blog…. ‘A blogged slug, a slogged blug’ – say that fast! Oops. Now there’s spit all over the computer screen. Ah but that’s pretty! Lots of rainbow lights shining through the droplets…wonderful! Go on, try it…
Uhhhhh - I must get a life…

Jun 11, 2008


It was just another routine visit to the lung specialist.
‘Got a cold?’ He asked jocularly, whilst writing my usual inhaler prescription.
‘Just the same old sniff. You know, the one I've had for years.’
‘Ah yes.’ He beamed. ‘Anything else?’
‘No, except for a twinge in my left temple. Would aspirin help do you think? Can’t lay on that side without it hurting.’
‘Really?’ He was bolt upright now. ‘You’d better see the internal medical specialist.’

3 months later:
‘Pain in the left temple is it?’ Asks the IMS. ‘You had better have a C.T. scan. Anything else troubling you?’
‘Well… I have had a dodgy stomach for a couple of years now.’
‘Really? Better have a colonoscopy as well then.’
‘Just to be on the safe side.’

1 month later:
‘The results of the colonoscopy are fine,' chirps the IMS and I sigh with relief...
'However the C.T. scan results are not good. The left sinuses are very narrow and distorted and bunged up. I’ll give you a letter for an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.

2 months later:
The ENT specialist is convinced I am someone else entirely and is cross when I insist I am not! His computer is not even turned on and he huffily ignores the IMS’s written request to diagnose my C.T. scan. Instead, he shines a light up my right nostril from about a meter away and tells me I have hay fever.
‘Hay fever? In one side of my nose?’ I ask. ‘And besides doctor, you are looking up the wrong nostril.’
Crossly, he shines the light up the other nostril and tells me I am a typical hyperactive English person (!) Grrr…So I ask if he is referring to my Anglo/Celtic character - which he does not know - or to some mysterious sinus anomaly, unique to Brits in general? Ha! However the man couldn’t care less and dismisses me with a prescription for one small bottle of nose spray, with instructions to squirt it up both nostrils for the rest of my life; ‘because we don’t want to get polyps now do we?’ Fuming, I am back out in the corridor within five minutes, feeling as though I have just left the Twilight Zone!

By now another six months have passed and I return to the lung specialist – and tell him all! Frowning mightily, he downloads my C.T. scan, poo-poos the ENT specialist’s nose spray and prescribes new nose drops he nicknames ‘bombs’. Apparently these are ampules of a burning substance that should chemically ‘blow everything wide open’ and if that doesn’t work, I will need an operation. Though he hastens to reassure me that another ENT specialist will perform it. Too right mate!

Back home again, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Within the last six months, I have had my head stuck in a radioactive ‘oven’; had a 2 meter hose with a camera and lamp on the end of it shoved up my backside; been neglected and insulted by someone I went to in good faith; and am now on my knees with my head on the floor, squirting a ‘burning bomb’ up my left nostril! Not only that but I have exceeded my medical insurance ‘own risk’ for 2008 – and that ENT specialist got nearly half of it!

And the twinge in my left temple that started it all? Oh that’s still there – complete with a brand new nervous tic in the left eyelid....bah!
Wish I'd just taken that aspirin.........tic...

Jun 9, 2008


Last night after nine o’clock, I put my wheelie bin out for the rubbish collectors. It was the simplest of tasks to trundle the bin out from behind the front wall and park it at the street curb for early morning collection. Not a muscle twisting task and literally 'no sweat'!

This routine exercise would not normally be a topic I’d think of mentioning but it contrasts so radically with the plight of another elderly person I read about recently, that I feel compelled to rant! An online news article dated four days ago, tells of how an 80-year-old British lady is forced to drag her wheelie bin over half a mile down a steep hill to have it emptied – while paying over 2,000 British pounds a year in council tax!

The article's photographs have to be seen to be believed (!) and hence this brain-struggle on my part, with internet/computer technology, to learn how to link to it from here…

Fingers crossed. O.K… deep breath… Would you believe it, my mouth is actually dry?! Anyway here goes. Frail pensioner must drag wheelie bin half a mile.

Has it worked? I think it has... Phew! O.K. folks - read and fume! Unless of course your own rubbish disposal plight is even worse than this one - and that might be the case if you live in Naples. Or have they solved it? But that's another link... hang on....

No, on second thoughts I couldn't stand the strain! I'm off to make a cuppa tea to loosen my tongue from the roof of my mouth...


I know for a fact, having recently lived there, that many of the apartment blocks in Amsterdam hide glorious secret gardens!
Often assessable only through the ground floor apartments to which they belong the effect is of a tranquil and colourful oasis, hidden away from the dinginess and turmoil of city life.

Each rainy day in spring our modest lawns would be teeming with frogs – though lord knows where they came from, while bees, butterflies, snails and slugs went forth and multiplied. Blackbirds and blue tits abounded too, whilst the tallest trees were often filled with screeching families of wild green city parrots, who liked nothing better than to bombard us with twigs and poo (!)

So with all this natural beauty to keep us busy, it was with some surprise that one bright summer morning I discovered my seventy-six year old neighbour Mrs. V., halfway under a hortensia bush, feeding a dish of strawberry yogurt to her scrubbing brush….

Mrs. V: ‘Tch… It wont drink it…. do you think it’s ill?’

Me: ‘ Oh definitely.’

Mrs. V: ‘I don’t know. It’s unheard of to find one of these here. I mean how did it get here? Do you think it's dead?'

Me: ‘Indubitably.’

Mrs. V: Blinking and frowning. ‘You don’t seem bothered. I thought you liked hedgehogs?'

Me: ‘Well like you said - it’s dead… Oh Mrs. V., I am sorry but… you know that cataract operation you are due to have next week?'

Mrs. V: ‘Yes.’

Me: ‘And you know that scrubbing brush you lost last year and that is now half rotten and buried in the dirt under your hortensia bush?'

Mrs. V: Brightly. ‘Is it? Oh good, I wondered where… that… had… got … to… WEL NU BEN IK VAN DE POT GERUKT!’

Which means something like: ‘Well now I’ve gone completely off my rocker!’ The Dutch aren't known for spicy swear words.

P.S. We threw the scrubbing brush in the bin. A-men.

Jun 7, 2008


PING! There was no warning. One minute the room was a bright and cheerful place and the next, a pitch black vacuum with danger at the door....

Power cut! Pitch dark inside and out. No lamplight, no moonlight and not even the orange glow that is always visible at night above the city's towering rooftops. Visions of mayhem flash through my mind. This is the city after all and anything could happen. The darkness is an impenetrable, muffling blanket and claustrophobia is closing in. Must find candles - and I am turning away to search for them, when a faint scratching sound at the window frame sends my heart leaping out of my chest! O.M.G., it is really happening - somebody is breaking in!

Police! I drop to my knees - though lord knows why - and scrabble about bumping into furniture till I find the phone. D*mn! Forgotten that installing one of those 'cut-price-all-in-one-computer-modem-telecom-packages' means that the phone becomes dependent on the national electricity grid! No prepaid left on the cell phone either. Nothing else for it then - the noises at the window are getting louder - have to escape out the back door and hide in the shed....

It takes an eternity, crawling about trying to find the back door and not give myself concussion, when suddenly - PING! - and there I am, highlighted in all my indignity, with the telly blaring again and the grill reheating the cauliflower cheese and the coffee machine burping out lukewarm sludge....
Grabbing a broom I charge back to discover the intruder half stuck in the open top window and protesting plaintively and loudly!
'MEEOUW! Let me the hell in!'
What the....? Oh for goodness sake it's only the cat - scared witless by the blackout. Sheepishly I haul her inside and treat her to rubbery, half melted cheese.

Flippin' electricity company. Electricity technology is all very well but it should do what it is supposed to do and not mess about after sundown, scaring decent folks and innocent animals half to death! It makes me wonder though.... This power cut lasted about half an hour. How would I have coped if it had gone on for a week? Don't even go there....

Jun 4, 2008


Skulking behind a pillar, in the main hall of Central Station, is not something I normally do - but this was a matter of: ‘Do it now or pay surcharge on train tickets for the rest of your miserable life’. So I had no choice.

The object of my scrutiny mocked me from just a little way off and how I loathed it. That latest in train station technology and bane of my life - the large, ugly, blue and yellow, ticket vending machine! They are always in demand. So if you are not as quick thinking as you used to be, you can forget about learning how to use them. At least not without causing a riot in the queue. I have tried a few times but always chickened out at the hissing and booing stage, which in my case is just after I have located my specs and put them on. Hence the skulking - to try and see how other folk work the bl*ody things!

Unfortunately two nearby security guards were pretending not to watch me, so I faked a look at the wristwatch I’d forgotten to put on and wandered off to buy my ticket at a ticket hatch. The few hatches still open these days are used mainly by tourists - and doddering old wretches like me. Not only that, but the hatch people charge an extra 50cents a ticket (!) although their disapproving sniffs are free.

It might have gone on like that forever, had I not needed to travel out of the city one day via a small, local train station I had not used before. It was a revelation! Two ticket vending machines outside the station door and nobody else in sight... With thudding heart I donned my specs – and took my first long look at the enemy.

Ugh! Has anybody realized how nasty those screens are? This one was a filthy mess of smudged fingerprints and spit and probably teeming with E. coli or worse. The other machine was only slightly better, so I found a stick on the ground to touch it with. Despite visions of the plague and many false starts, I took my time and grew more and more cocky, till at last with a triumphant flourish the deed was done!

The only jarring note was that after all the adrenalin and perspiration, no ticket inspector came aboard the train (either way) to clip my self-made ticket…. But hey, what the heck - there's another technology notch on my broomstick and I can finally spurn those blue and yellow abominations for what they really are – mindless crud!

Jun 1, 2008


According to a news article I tripped over recently whilst lost on the web, it would appear that as our brain cells decrease and technologies advance, a gap is evolving where nary the twain shall meet!

‘Technology baffles old and poor’ is the title of a BBC news online article, dated May 16, 2005 - but still true of today I fear.
According to this report, older people are: ‘…especially irritated with devices and technologies that are fiddly to use - a problem shared with disabled people’.
The article then goes on to tell us that: ‘Third generation mobile technology, 3G, came off the worst in a report into people’s understanding and take-up of technologies’.
So in other words, today’s technologies are guaranteed to morph you into a doddering, bankrupt, blithering wreck - the minute you pick up your pension book…!

Still, I have to admit that speaking subjectively, there is a large grain of truth in this article. But what can be done about it?
Apparently ‘exercising the brain’ is all the rage at the moment but what does that mean? Chanting through the twelve times table, or reciting pi (pronounced pie) (without custard) to infinite places, or even just practicing remembering where we keep putting our keys, is all good stuff – but how long will it take until the old Intelligence Quotient reboots itself?
Might it work faster if we stand on our heads whilst reciting? Perhaps even jiggle a bit, to help unstick the old hippocampus from its calcified surroundings?
Note: Try this at your own risk - but remove dentures first.

Naturally once the old brain is exercised, it will have to be tested. Personally, I can think of no I.Q. testing ground more excellent than that ‘Institute of the Confusing’ – the international airport! For example, I still don’t know how to work one of those ‘check in’ machines without clamping myself onto some startled, uniformed slip of a girl and begging her to please, oh please, check me in! Well I ask you, when is there ever time to learn how to use those things?! With hoards of the ‘desperate-to-get-aboard’ panting down your neck and distracting your mind, you might very well end up checking yourself aboard a 'last minute' adventure flight, to an erupting volcano!

Meanwhile, if you would like to read the BBC news article mentioned above, I can not transport you to it with one of those nice pale-blue-links, because I don’t know how to create one - but if you type: ‘bbc news technology baffles old and poor’ (without quotation marks) into your web browser – bingo! Don’t actually shout ‘bingo’, just type….
Right, I’ll be off then. A good strong mug of tea without milk and sugar, is tickling me fancy - and not a new technology in sight! Except for the kettle – but that’s been banged against the tap so often, it’s lost the will to fight...
Bye for now. Give those technology gremlins hell!

May 25, 2008


There is a gigantic hole at the end of my street and like starlings around a bacon rind we flock to view it. Its proportions are truly enormous and as we gawk admiringly, I detect communal pride and street solidarity in the contemplation of ‘our hole’. No one knows why it is there. Road works are a permanent fixture in our city. One day an intact road - next day a hole. No big deal.
Even so, this particular hole is truly magnificent (!) and we venture closer. Excited kids toss stones and we watch them bounce off the sides and plummet downwards. Shivering, I reflect that this must have been how the whole planet once was: A pitted globe of dank treacherous holes, in a ground torn apart by primeval earthquakes. A time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, perhaps on this very spot!
As I gaze with fascination into the newly dug aperture, I wonder what it is about holes that exert such magnetism on the human psyche? Take a hole in a garment for example. Goaded on by an almost instinctive, primeval urge, we are doomed to stick a finger in it! But what is a hole really? Nothing. It is simply not there - and yet it is - defined by its edges. It is a maddening concept.
Shrugging off my musings I hop back onto my bike and continue on round the corner to the shops – and stop dead! The whole main street is dug up, with a huge trench excavated along its entire length. The sand and soil from the trench is piled up high along its outer edge like a…dinosaur’s vertebrae (!) and the strip of road left over, is made even narrower by a row of parked cars along the pavement curb.
With a line of honking cars now piling up behind me, I peddle frantically. Well it isn’t my fault that there is no room for a car and a bicycle side by side…
Then suddenly and horribly – BAM! The door of a parked car swings open and I smash full tilt into it and fall to the ground. The car behind me screeches to a stop and I am vaguely aware of the driver extricating me from my damaged bike and yelling at the perpetrator.
'What the 'blazes' do you think you are doing?!'
A crowd is gathering, asking me if I am all right. I don’t know. My left hand is grazed and embedded with grit from the road and there is a large lump on the front of my right shin and something decidedly odd about my right hand. I hold it up and the ring finger swings drunkenly across the front of the little finger. It is obviously broken. The crowd sighs.
‘Insurance,’ I mumble and the perpetrator looks alarmed but under the baleful glare of the crowd, he writes his name, phone and car registration number on a piece of paper and gives it to me.
Then he tries to sneak off.
‘Hospital!’ I mutter, staring angrily at him.
The crowd hisses.
Chastened, he agrees and his female companion helps me into their car, while a helpful shopkeeper locks my damaged bike, props it up on a lamppost and drops the key into my coat pocket. I thank him through trembling lips.
What happens at the hospital is a bit of a blur. The perpetrator drops me at the entrance and screeches away without a word, which just stiffens my resolve to ‘get him’ later...grr..(insurance!).
They plaster the whole of my broken right hand and the left hand too is cleaned, ointmented and mummified in bandage. The lump on my shin is left to heal itself. Then an obliging nurse wraps my coat around me and sends me on my way with a medical report and instructions to report the incident to the police. Apparently knocking people off bikes with car doors is a crime! Ha!
Exhausted now, I take the tram home and don’t punch my card. How can I with two mummified hands? How will I manage when I get home - I am bursting for the loo!
Finally at my front door, I open my bag with my teeth and am staring helplessly down at the door key, when suddenly, like a guardian angel, my good neighbour Mrs. V., is swooping down upon me!
‘Potverdorie’! She clucks. Which I think is Dutch for 'damn the pots' but might mean 'good grief'!
‘Saw you from the window. Whatever’s happened? Here, let me help you off with your coat. Tut-tut!’
Surrendering to her kind ministrations, I am soon standing in my hallway being told by Mrs. V. that I am to come over directly and have a nice cup of tea and that she’ll leave her front door open a crack, so that I don’t have to ring the bell with my nose…. Dear Mrs. V..
Wearily I lean back against the wall of the hallway. My swaddled hands are throbbing badly and alone at last I fight down tears of self-pity. Then suddenly my eyes fly open! Mesmerized I stare ahead, as somewhere deep within my brain stem, echoes of a primeval Jurassic past are stirring. Earthquakes, chasms and HOLES… I must be feverish. Then unbidden and instinctively, I sense her! My ‘Terrible Lizard’ is waking and as her massive mouth roars out her mighty pain and frustration, I can hold back the tears no longer...(!)
There's a h-hole in my coat and I don't have a f-finger to poke it with...waahh!

May 24, 2008


It has been nagging away at me for days - how to move that misplaced widget or button, or whatever it’s called, out of a posting and onto the sidebar.
It has in fact taken four whole ‘Fiddling About On The Web’ days, to gather enough knowledge to eventually attempt the deed - but oh happiness and joy - I have finally done it!
Actually, I have only managed to ‘Copy’ the button to the sidebar. The original button is still in its very own posting, where I mistakenly pasted it on May 20. I didn’t dare click on ‘Cut’, in case I lost the button’s code somewhere in transaction. Copying it seemed the safest bet. Anyway, for those of you who might be interested (or in the same dilemma) this is how I did it.

Went to blog ‘dashboard’ and clicked on manage: ‘Posts’ section.
Located title of posting with mistakenly placed button; ticked box and clicked on ‘Edit’.
The posting appeared and I then clicked on ‘Edit HTML’ and highlighted the button’s code with my mouse.
I then clicked on ‘Edit’, next to ‘File’ at top of page and then on ‘Copy’.
With the button’s code now safely copied, I then went to the ‘Layout’ section of my blog and clicked on ‘Add a Page Element’ in the right sidebar.
In the ‘Choose a New Page Element’ page that then popped up, I clicked on HTML/JavaScript, which then revealed yet another page/space and it was into the larger body section of this space that I pasted the button code by going to the keyboard and pressing and holding down the ‘Ctrl’ key and pressing once on the ‘v’.
(I couldn’t paste the code out of ‘Edit’ next to ‘File’ at the top of the page, because this was obscured by the new page/space I was working on).
After the button code appeared in the space provided, I pressed ‘Save Changes’.
Then last of all - and with by now very fast racing heart - I clicked on ‘View Blog’ and ‘Voila!’ There was the errant button - nestling in the sidebar, just as pretty as you please!

The original button is still in the posting I mistakenly sent it to - but at least when that particular posting is archived, its clone will be on display as a permanent fixture in the sidebar!
I am so pleased with myself – and this small but personal triumph over computer superiority calls for an extra large mug of hot, blackberry tea and a between-meals slice of…anything sweet I’ve got in my ‘fridge!
There is no doubt about it, ageing ungracefully got its come-uppence today!

May 20, 2008


Blog Directory - Blogged

OOPS! Another glitch... I was trying to get the above button into the side of the blog under all the other permanent stuff - and its ended up here...! How on earth do I move it??
It's got to stay on the main page - but when May is over it will be archived along with the rest of the May posts - won't it?
Well, at least I'm running true to my usual befuddled, fumbling, dithering, doddering form...sigh. Old age really sucks!

May 18, 2008


Oh... stuff! It seems those infernal techno' gremlins, have invaded my life again (!)
The portents are not good. My computer has just asked me twice if I’ve forgotten my password and will not let me log on. So… retype password for the third time, letter for letter, with great concentration: i.e., aided by tip of tongue protruding from side of mouth – and bingo! I’m in! Good old tongue, always there when I need it.
Just for a change, I decide to type my blog URL directly onto the web, to see what it looks like to ‘the world’ so to speak - when up pops the announcement that there is no such blog in existence!
Aagghh…! Instant panic as heart leaps into throat. O.M.G.! ‘They’ have taken it off! I must have transcended some moral code or other. Oh gosh, which one? Why? What have I done?
Good old tongue to the rescue, moistening increasingly dry lips - although I have to practically ‘gag’ it up from the back of my throat, after almost swallowing it in shock! My darting eyes search frantically for the problem – then… ping (!) the old grey mush other people refer to as a brain, finally wakes up properly and tells me I have misspelled the URL address…. A quick retype… and there it is!
Oh the blessed relief! There you are - my new little blog. Kiss kiss! Ouch! Bump my nose on the monitor and it tastes horrible too. Relief does strange things to a person but the adrenalin rush has receded now and here I am typing away, so I think it is probably time for a nice strong, refreshing cup of tea.
Actually, this posting was only intended as a postscript to ‘Cell Phone Cacophony’. I just wanted to say that encouraged by my son, who came over for a visit yesterday, I went out and bought a sleek new cell phone! It is shiny and red and about one third the size of my wallet (!) although just as useless at the moment, because it still needs to be programmed. Hmm. I know this sounds daft - but I have turned aside all offers of help. Past events have shown that when anyone tries to help me with new technological challenges, I get into a flap! The combination of geek jargon and watching someone else’s finger clicking rapidly on menu buttons - passes right over my fuddled white head.
So there's nothing else for it, if these new technologies are going to ‘stick', I have to tackle them myself. Either that, or keep phoning the kids for help and become a dreaded burden! Still, on second thoughts, isn't that what kids are for? No, on third thoughts, I’d better not. They are all talking to me at the moment… and I’d like to keep it that way!
I do have one tried and true aid though. Tea! Pots and pots of it and I think a mild blackberry flavour would go down a treat right now. Also, if I’m not mistaken, there are still a few chocolate bars left in ‘Granny’s Sweetie Jar’. I buy them for my almost three year old grandson, but his mum - very sensibly - wont let him have too many of them. So I help him along a bit. Can’t have the stock going stale!
Still, they do say that eating chocolate releases endorphins in the brain and I am going to need a lot of ‘happy feeling’, before tackling my brand new cell phone! Now if I could just find out which foodstuffs induce PATIENCE…? Any ideas? Tea’s up! Cheers!

May 16, 2008


There is no doubt about it, celluloid phones, rank high on my list of most annoying and difficult to master technologies! The enthusiasm with which these phones were first greeted, baffled me completely. Everyone except me it seemed, was rushing out to buy one. Even my septuagenarian neighbour, a certain Mrs. V., astonished me one day during a trip to our local market, by suddenly pulling out a cell phone, flipping it dexterously open and bawling into it at the top of her voice! I didn’t even know she owned such a thing and almost jumped out of my skin at the unexpectedness of it all.
The most amazing thing to me was that Mrs. V was holding the phone below chin level and repeatedly shouting her granddaughter’s name at it.
‘Er.. Don’t you have to dial first?’ I ventured.
‘I am doing,’ answered the intrepid Mrs.V.. ‘I’m using name–recognition-dialing.’
‘Oh…of course,’ I murmured faintly, ‘name-recognition-dialing’.
I was always amazed at the richness and variation of the cell phone topics under discussion, although often dismayed too that nothing seemed sacred anymore. Like someone’s loud voice slagging off their neighbour/spouse/best friend/boss etc.. Bah!
'Learn to turn a 'deaf' ear', advised the serene Mrs. V..
But even she avoided the city center during tourist season.
Climbing into an over full tram one hot summers day, I was perplexed by the cacophony of sound - until I slowly realized that practically everyone was talking on a cell phone - and I couldn’t understand a word of it!
Throaty Arabic consonants assailed the air. Turkish words, all seemingly ending in ‘Z’ flew over my head. Melodious Caribbean bounced off the windows. Lilting Italian; rapid Spanish; Australian; American; German; Chinese and all manner of Baltic vocals, swirled frenziedly through the humid, claustrophobic interiour. Everyone seemed to be gesturing; either punching the air or drawing directions in it; or just rocking backwards and forwards with their gaze ‘turned inwards’ as they visualized the person on the other end of their phone.
I felt myself giggle and supressed it with a spluttering cough. Oh Lord, help me! Cough cough. That’s right. Swallow. Take a deep breath...
No offence intended to any of the languages mentioned here but when mixed up all together in a confined space, they're a blast!
And then suddenly there I was - screeching like a banshee. Oh flippin 'eck, hold your breath! Hunch forward! Think of something sad! Nothing was working and heads were turning, as people were distracted from their own noise by mine!
I could imagine that in all their different languages the sentiment would be the same:
‘Look at that silly old bat, laughing at nothing. Shouldn’t be allowed out in public alone. No telling what she’ll do next.’
Tears of mirth and humiliation trickled from my eyes - and as I fumbled desperately in my bag for a tissue, my fingers closed around salvation! Cool and shiny to the touch the flat, rectangular shape slid into my palm and with a last ditch flourish I pulled it from my bag and held it to my ear. I was just in time.
Baleful, suspicious eyes were raking my posture. Check it out: Laughing elderly woman, squashed near the door, gazing downwards, right arm bent, hand held to ear at familiar angle. Hmm… nothing unusual, no threat after all.
Relief flooded through me as their eyes ‘turned inwards’ once more, leaving me alone to chortle insanely - into my wallet!

May 12, 2008


Despite my own seemingly age-related shortcomings, I do realize that ageing is a personal experience and that not every old person is dithering, fumbling and doddering their way through life. So why am I?
Come to think of it, by modern standards, 60-ish isn’t all that old, but whereas just three and a half years ago I was completing yet another Open University course (for fun), with my sights set on a degree (to show off with) and being regularly complemented on ‘not looking my age’ (preen) I am now a forgetful, white haired, wrinkly worry wart!
After serious thought, aided by numerous cups of coffee to dilate blood vessels in the brain and aid sluggish memory - I have worked out the exact day the ‘rot’ set in. It was 31st December 2004. That was the day, when after twelve years of daily use, I stopped taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
HRT had originally been prescribed for me at the age of 45, to soften the onset of debilitating ‘mood swings’: i.e., unreasonably angry one minute/manically happy the next; as well as to combat sleeplessness; and the pain of other more physical perimenopausal symptoms. I have to say that whilst HRT may not be the answer for everyone, I thought it was brilliant! Not only did I feel ‘normal’ again within a couple of months - but my skin was benefiting too, appearing hardly to be ageing. As for my hair - the few white strands that did gradually appear, were mostly confined to the temple areas and easy to cover up with a touch of hair dye.
After two years of taking HRT, I returned to the doctor and asked her if I should stop - but since I obviously felt and looked so well, she offered me a repeat prescription and I accepted it gladly!
I don’t really know why I eventually stopped taking HRT. However, health warnings in the media of a possible link between breast cancer and prolonged use of this remedy, certainly had a lot to do with my decision.
It took less than 72 hours and just two ‘missed’ pills, for Mother Nature to realize she had me back in her grasp and to punish me soundly with my first ‘hot flush’. O.M.G.! I was convinced I would spontaneously combust! Ten minutes after that one there was another and then another, day and night; on and on… The time between attacks did gradually diminish but even now I still experience at least two a week. Mostly at night.
Then there was the dizziness; difficulty concentrating and increasing forgetfulness! Not all within those first 72 hours of course but certainly after a year it had become so bad, I cancelled my fifth OU course two thirds of the way through and started ‘pottering’. I pottered around the house, painting and repainting the walls; pottered in the garden hunting slugs; pottered around town alone staring into shop windows and not daring to go in, because I knew a shop assistant would approach me and I’d turn red and stutter and look like a hot, sweaty fool. The physical decline was merciless. Instant bloat! From pear to apple shape in a couple of months and my trunk and chest decorated with something called cherry (senile) angioma..! Wrinkles; rapidly whitening hair and horror of horrors: hair growing out of my nostrils…..aagghh!!! All the more astounding, because I thought that particular affliction was reserved for (old) men? Needless to say, I soon yanked them out with my eyebrow tweezers. Although eye wateringly painful at first, perseverance does pay off because when I do it now I hardly feel a thing and the result lasts quite a long time.
Thankfully the ‘mood swings’ have not returned! In fact, I feel that I am more tolerant and compassionate than I ever was before. Perhaps that is one of nature’s survival techniques: the older and weaker you get the less chance you have of grabbing a share of the mammoth meat, so the more appealing to the clan you have to become, to get them to toss you a bit…! Or something like that. Just a thought. Going to potter off now and try out a new soup I’ve invented, which is guaranteed full of healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 - and will hopefully revitalize my shrinking hippocampus and reduce my expanding midline! I’ll let you know if it works and pass on the recipe… but if I don’t, it will mean it hasn’t worked and I’ve forgotten what I just said…. Toodle-oo!