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!