Monthly Archives: August 2011

Waking in the night

“Be like a duck.  Calm on the surface but always paddling like the dickens underneath”
Michael Caine, CBE, British actor .

Does this describe my blogging friend at counting ducks? When I read his post today (well I am assuming it is a he) I thought how  profound are some of our thoughts in the middle of the night.

I am one of the lucky people who decide to go to sleep; turn out the light and go to sleep for the next 7 or 8 hours.  Rarely do I waken in the night.  When I do I lie there and wonder what has awoken me.  Is it Lotte moving around on the bed, is it a loud noise from the street, the kids next door finishing up after a party.  But whatever the reason I usually take about an hour before resuming my sleep.

In that time I usually get up and make a hot drink, camomile or ginger and lemon tea and take it back to bed with my notebook and pencil.  Sometimes what I write doesn’t bear reading in the morning as it makes little or no sense.  But just occasionally, I have a break through and one such was my recent poem on grief.

More often I think about what I have done and as my mind settles on a memory I realise just how lucky I have been in my life.  I have seen places many people will never visit, I have made friends around the world, I have a lovely and loving family and a warm and comfortable home in which to live.  And I have the memories of a life shared with my dashing (not so) young, Scotsman.

My friend at counting ducks says rather eloquently that “Ultimately though it’s what you’ve done, who you’ve known and how you acted when there was no compass or someone to judge your actions that measure how your using your brief time on this planet.”    He adds as a conclusion “Just connect with whats around you and people who matter with you.”

This is a profound thought and one I really endorse.  I choose how I will spend the rest of my life and the people I will share it with.  There are some acquaintances that I know are toxic to me and so I no longer have anything to do with them.  Does this wisdom come with age?  I think the answer (at least for me) is yes as it has taken me a while to arrive at this point.

So thanks to counting ducks for giving me the idea for today’s blog. No disturbed sleep last night.  Eight hours solid.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. ” Dale Carnegie



I dont know whether this can be classed as poetry or is it just stream of consciousness writing.  In any event this is what came to me in the early hours of this morning, when sleep eluded me.

Like a thief in the night
Grief slinks silently back into my life
Disturbing the peace I have fought so hard for
It is like a fractious child demanding attention
And as the mother with her child, I give in
And am taken back to the beginning
When days were so long and nights even longer.
When I thought there was no way out of this slough of despair
And I am once again immobilised by it.
But I have been here before
Many times since that April night
And I know I can climb out
And once again put grief back where it belongs
Until the next time.

Who Put You In the Driver’s Seat?

The reason we left Scotland and started our nomadic life (of sorts) is because my late husband worked for an international car rental company whose tagline was”Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat.”  Are you old enough to remember this?  Click here for an ad of the times.

And when thinking of this it came to me that the men in our family Always want to be in the driver’s seat when driving the car.  When my husband was alive he always picked up the car keys when we were leaving the house – even if the keys were to my car.  Once he had his licence, my son assumed that he would drive us if his father were not around.

My son and son-in-law do the same thing still.  And this week, my grandson picked up my car keys.  But he didn’t get to drive as my car isn’t insured for anybody under 25.

I wondered whether this was a male thing generally or just peculiar to our family.

When I queried several friends they agreed that this was what happens in their families.  So why I have to ask myself.  And have no answer.

  • Do men think nobody else capable of driving?
  • Do they think we can’t find our way, with or without a map/satnav?
  • Does it give them a feeling of power?

Perhaps you have an answer.

If everything comes your way
You are in the wrong lane”  Unknown.


Hurricane Irene

Is there anything else to talk about today?  I have been watching Fox News on and off since early this morning.  I have never lived in an area prone to hurricanes and so I cannot begin to imagine how you people feel as it bears down on you.

It looks as if New York City will get the full brunt of this storm and the anchor/newsreader has just said that the last time a hurricane swept through NYC was 1984 but the last time it hit the city was 1821.

My thoughts are with you all today and over the next few days as you come to terms with what appears to be a major disruption to your lives and those of your loved ones.

Our thoughts and best wishes are with you at this time.

Sunshine and What a Difference a Day Makes

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way..”
John Denver, American singer/songwriter and activist.  1943 -1997

Another lovely day here I awoke to brilliant sunshine.  Blue skies and no wind.  Amazing in Windy Wellington.  And what a difference a day makes.  Yesterday was sombre, unhappy day, bringing back all the memories of my husband’s funeral.   Today my mood is so different  and it is certainly helped by the sunshine.  Unfortunately, it will be some time before my friend’s mood lifts.  But we will all be there for her until it does.

I have been out to brunch with a friend and the young were out and about in summer clothes.  I don’t know about where you live but the young here in New Zealand just love the sun on their bodies and strip off at the slightest provocation.  Not warm enough for that yet in my opinion but everybody I met had a smile to share and really appeared happy.  Maybe, like me, they thought this was a harbinger of spring.

I am not so foolish as to believe everybody is feeling so lighthearted today.  Of course there are those grieving for loved ones lost or sick, and for themselves too if they are sick.

But it really is amazing how sunshine can really lift one above the misery and convince one that the world is good.  There are good people out there and there is always another opportunity,  If health or sickness is on your mind today, tomorrow may well be better for you,  And who knows that elusive cure may be just around the corner.

Today I would particularly like to say to those who responded to my blogs about a friend’s death and the funeral, thank you, thank you.  I am overcome at the goodwill that exists among our blogging friends and to all of you I offer

If I had a day that I could give you,
I’d give to you the day just like today”

Sunshine certainly makes me high.  How about you?

And here is my personal rainbow to spread happiness to you all.


My rainbow

What a difference a day makes
There’s a rainbow before me

As sung by Aretha Franklyn

As you can tell from this post, Pollyanna is alive and well in this house.

A Funeral on Friday

“What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval
Somewhere very near,
Just round the corner.
All is well”
Henry Scott Holland Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford –   1847-1918

Today is the day of the funeral and I don’t know what this day will bring forth.

When speaking with the minister on Wednesday I told him that we had organised sunshine for today to give Michael a great send off.  He was quite skeptical but guess what, after a week of quite indifferent weather, the sun is shining brightly.  The birds are singing, the sky is blue, the wind has forgotten to blow and so no need for plan B.

Yesterday I took my friend to the funeral home to see her husband’s body.  This was very upsetting of course, for her.  She was adamant that she wanted to see him but afterwards in between her tears, she said she wished she hadn’t seen him and he didn’t look like Michael.

I chose not to go to the funeral  home when my husband died,  choosing instead to remember Robert as a living, breathing person.  But everybody has to do what they feel is right for them.  The people at the undertakers were very caring and of course, as they deal with this situation every day, they were very solicitous.

We went back to the apartment afterwards and as we were leaving to go to another friend’s house for dinner, I noticed a parking ticket on my car.  A fitting end to another ghastly day.

Tomorrow will be better.

To live in lives we leave behind is not to die”  Judith Baxter 1938 –

Yesterday – A day Without a Post

On Monday evening I received the news that a good friend had died.  It was not altogether unexpected as he had been in and out of hospital quite a lot in recent months and always came out cheerful and looking ready to continue with his place in the world.  But not this time.

And yesterday I spent time with the widow.  How that brought back those early hours and days when my husband died.  And even though I have been there, in that self same situation,there was no way I could really understand just what she was going through.  We have to come to terms with the death of somebody so loved, and so close , each in our own way.

I phoned early in the morning and got the answerphone and it brought this poem by Michael Laskey to mind.

“After he died he went on speaking
On the ansaphone: he’d apologize
For being out and ask us to leave
Our names and messages after the tone.
At first we couldn’t, we just hung up, ….”
From Life After Death by Michael Laskey
English poet. 1944 –

How often in the months following my husband’s death did I find something that was so full of him that it brought a fresh wave of grief and tears?  A slip of paper on which he had written himself a note, a card I had given him on a celebration day that he had used as a bookmark, his notebook with his writing, his Cross pen that always went everywhere with him.

It is always the little things that undo us.  We think we are strong and coping and then something small happens and we are right back into that trough of despair that we thought we were climbing out of.

So what could I do to help?  I cooked a fillet of beef so that it could be there for when people call in to express their condolences.  I remember my daughter-in-law saying how much she appreciated those gifts of ready prepared food in the days and weeks following my husband’s death.

It was too soon to exchange remembrances of her husband and so I could only sit with her and hold her when the tears came.

I found that those friends who just came and sat with me, speaking only if I wanted them to, were those that helped most at that time.

So I shall go back today to see what I can do, if anything, to help.  And sit with her while she processes what has happened in her mind and somehow gets herself ready to face the months and years ahead.  There will be time for memories to surface and for laughter to accompany most of them in the months ahead.  But for now I shall just be with her.

Look What I Found

“What’s for lunch the lady cried:
I feel a vacuum here inside” Anon

Last week when sorting out books etc to go to Mary Potter Hospice for sale in their shop I came across another, not quite so old book – 1966, that has had me in bursts of laughter ever since.

Anti bull cookbook

This is a hilarious take against the plethora of large, expensive cookery books that were coming onto the market at the time.  And yes, I do have some but my late husband thought this one would bring us all back to the real world.

The book is roughly separated into the various mealtimes, Le Fifoclock ( which according to Peter Evans is what the French call afternoon tea) and any excuse for food at any other time during the day or night.

He introduces us to the Impossible Person at lunch.

The Impossible Person

The Impossible Person

According to the writer “She is so old that there are some who believe she should be preserved for the nation as an Ancient Monument (and others who feel she should have been scheduled for demolition years ago)”.  Did he have me in mind when he penned this description, knowing how I would turn out some 45 years later?

She is portrayed as an archeologist “of great distinction who still rides a camel into the field…”  It is claimed that she has had rows with every eminent archeologist, believing as she does in her own worth and unassailability.  Her manners are appalling; she spills food down her clothes and makes ghastly noises when eating; she considers herself an expert and holds forth on any and every topic, interrupting others ; flicks ash all over the carpet (this was in 1966 remember) and totally discounts any opinion but her own. The perfect guest for lunch.

Oh I do hope that this isn’t how he would see me in the years to come.

We are told that she announces her arrival for lunch by telegram delivered the day before.  What no email or cellphones?  So you could get out of having her to lunch but she would only descend again later.  You may as well get it over with.

Our author further describes her as a glutton and on occasion food has even been known to put her in a good mood – whatever that may mean.  So he decides to feed her Boeuf en Danube saying that his recipe will feed four hungry archeologists.

Boef en daubeHis recipe:
2lbs stewing steak cubed
strip orange rind
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 sticks celery chopped
3 cloves garlic,  a bay leaf
Pint of red bordeaux
12 small onions
6 carrots chopped
4oz bacon and seasoning.

Put steak, to marinade in  wine, vinegar, seasonings, bay leaf and orange rind for several hours.  Heat bacon and brown onions, carrots and celery in fat.  Remove orange rind from meat.  Add meat to the vegetables and fry for 5 minutes.  Add marinade.  cover the pan and simmer for four hours.  Serve with plain boiled rice in which you have mixed peas and shreds of crisply fried onion.

And here is an up to date recipe that I have tried using a slow cooker, but I think I prefer the original.

Our author suggest this be followed by apricot mousse served with stewed fresh apricots and thin cream.

I think even the impossible person would be happy to sit down to such a meal.

And who would you invite to share the table?  Seven others to make a total of 8;  a good number to seat at a round table.

  1. Sir Noel Coward to pay her compliments, butter her up and then later put her into one of his clever songs.
  2. Sir Michael Caine to bring her down to earth and remind her where her roots are.
  3. Angela Lansbury to make sure all is calm and in the event of a murder she will be on the spot.
  4. Mahatma Gandi to pour oil on any troubled waters.
  5. Judith Martin aka Miss Manners to show this character how it’s done.
  6. Eleanor Bron, actress who can debate her choice of career with the impossible person.
  7. John Cleese at his Fawlty Towers best to bring some much needed humour to this lunch party.

I went to a marvelous party,
I must say the fun was intense,
We all had to do
What the people we knew
Would be doing a hundred years hence
From I went to a Marvellous Party,
Sir Noel Coward

Chop Off Her Head er Leg

“Now, I give you fair warning, either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time! Take your choice!”
from ‘Alice in Wonderland’

When I read Monica’s Tangled Web blog today I was taken back 62 years to a similarly, frightening experience.

On Saturday morning I woke with a sore knee. It felt hot but mother put a cold compress on it and told me all would be well.  The next morning I awoke and could hardly put my foot to the ground.  The knee was red and swollen.  Mother decided then that it needed attention.

We had no car so I had to hobble with her to catch a bus to the hospital some half hour ride away.  She obviously deemed it far too serious for the doctor’s office.

I don’t remember much of the ensuing hours while they tried to find out what was wrong with me.  I told them how I had fallen in the school playground earlier in the week and the staff had bathed and bandaged the knee.  The doctors determined that they hadn’t got all the asphalt chips out and so started poking around looking for the chips that they were convinced must still be in the leg.  I don’t remember, but hope that they gave me a local anesthetic prior to the digging.

Some time later and after much discussion among the doctors and then with my mother, it was decided that I had osteomyelitis an infection in the bone.  At the time there was no cure and my mother reluctantly, I hope, agreed that the leg could be amputated to prevent other bones being infected.

Can you imagine the terror  this 11-year-old girl felt when she was told by her mother that this is what was to happen, and fairly soon.  Fortunately, the surgeon came into the ward and told mother about a new, untried drug that was being tested.  Would she give permission for this drug to be used on her daughter.  She agreed and there began a six-week course of Streptomycin every three hours.

So my leg was put into a cast to keep it from moving and the cast was attached to a hoist.  As I have grown I have never worked out why it had to be attached to the hoist, but anyway..

So every 3 hours, night and day my poor little skinny backside was injected with this drug.

It was a scary and lonely time for me.  I was in a room on my own, maybe because they thought the infection was contagious (although that could not have been the reason) or the most likely reason was that they had to disturb me every 3 hours and wouldn’t want to wake any other patients during the night.

Mother, father and my sisters came to visit each day but at that time, visiting hours were very regulated and the staff really didn’t give much thought to a scared young girl laying there alone after the family had left.

I have no clear memory of any of the nurses – hey we are talking 60 plus years ago – but I am sure they all took care of me in ways they knew how.

But I do remember the night that the doctor came into the room.  Mother and the rest of the family had gone for the night.  In a kindly tone he asked if I would like him to release the hoist for the night.  Up until that time, the hoist was released only for short periods, bathing, lavatory trips etc.  I was overjoyed.  And then he told me that the plaster could come off the next day and they would then determine how well or if the treatment had worked.  So  although I was delighted that the hoist was released I was left alone with more scary thoughts.  I am sure that I spent most of that night in trepidation wondering what they would discover when they removed the cast.

I was in a fever the next morning.  Each time I heard footsteps coming towards my room I thought they were coming for me.  But they waited until mother could be there before removing the cast.  I remember looking at her and feeling that she was worried about the outcome too.

They removed the cast and apart from the look of  this sorry, wasted right leg, they pronounced all was well.  The Streptomycin had cured the bug infection and I could go home later that day.  Of course, I had a series of exercises to strengthen the leg and they had to be done several times a day.  I couldn’t go back to school until I had recovered some strength in the leg.  And so I spent some of the only days alone with my mother.  Always the other girls were there needing attention but here I was the only person she had to attend to in the hours in which the girls were at school.  I really enjoyed that time and look back on it with gratitude.

I had to take care not to knock the leg for a while, but I quickly forgot about it in the days when I went back to school and then there was the excitement of going to the grammar school and moving house.  Osteomyelitis, the possibility of losing a leg, six weeks in hospital were all forgotten as these things should be when one is only 11 years old.

I will always be grateful to that surgeon who offered the alternative to losing a leg.  I have not thought of him for many, many years and I never knew his name.  Obviously I thanked him when I left hospital but in later years, I could have made the time to find out his name and thank him properly.

And I have not often thought of it in the intervening years, with one exception.  My husband was seriously ill in hospital and I met a young couple with a child of about 11.  They had just been told that she had osteomyelitis and though they now had drugs with which to treat the infection, there was still a lot of dread connected with this disease.  I was happy to be able to assure them that the disease could be cured and told them own experience.  I like to think that I helped them in some small way.

Scorpions are Really Buzzing Around Today

Once again, my mind is full of scorpions.  And not just one or two but a cyclone of scorpions.  You did know that a group of scorpions is called a cyclone?

Yesterday we laughed at the ridiculous ads of half a century ago.  But now I have found one that is truly awful.  Not anything to laugh about.  See what you think?

Ad for love cosmetics

This was an ad for Baby Soft products produced by Love Cosmetics made by Menley & James Laboratories a subsidiary of Smith Kline.  Wikipedia tells us “In April 1974 Love Cosmetics began to make a line of Baby Soft products meant for adults. The items were scented with an innocent fragrance most often associated with babies. There was a Baby soft talc, a body lotion, and a foam bath. A marketing slogan read sexy in a very special way. ”  How immoral is that.  And now compare the above photo to this

Jon Benet Ramsey

This is Jon Benet Ramsey an American child beauty pageant contestant.  We all know the story of how this 6-year-old went missing from her family home in Boulder  and was found some 8 hours later in the basement of the house.

Do you see the resemblance between the advert and the child?  I think that the promulgators of the ad were totally, morally corrupt to advertise in this way.  What has changed in the 37 years since then?

We still have ads directed at pre-adolescents, encouraging girls particularly to dress and act way beyond their years.


This is 10-year-old model Thylane Loubry Blondeau.  According to The Fashionist “10-year-old model Thylane Loubry Blondeau has been making headlines – both good and bad. While some publications have begun praising the genetically blessed child as the industry’s next big thing… the little girl with a sultry stare beyond her years, has started a debate over the sexualization of young girls. ”  How can this be acceptable in today’s world?  Is this what we want our young girls to aspire to?  This child most certainly looks old way beyond her years.  And  find these photos of her not only disturbing but also immoral.

I have no granddaughters and my daughter is married with sons, but I should really be concerned if it were considered that this kind of advertising is acceptable.

And then I found this –

This is a photo of 8-year-old Britney Campbell recovering from a shot of Botox administered by her mother.  After the pair appeared on Good Morning America showing the mother administering the shots,  Trent Rhorer, executive director of the San Francisco Human Services Agency, said officials wanted to talk to Kerry Campbell and her daughter Britney.  Ms Rhorer said ”It’s pretty unusual for a mum to be injecting an eight-year-old with Botox..”  Oh really!

And I really think I should end this rant here.  Tomorrow will be on a lighter subject I promise.

“If our way of life fails even one child, it fails us all.”
Judith Baxter, Mother, Grandmother and blogger.

Note – I have assumed that as these images have been circulating freely around the internet that they are outside copyright.  If this is not the case then I apologise wholeheartedly for any misuse.