Wednesday 26 September 2012

Playing with liquid nitrogen

I know it looks fun but PLEASE do not try this at home!

FedEx - the hidden message

FedEx Home

There is an arrow concealed between E and x – it symbolises speed and precision.

FedEx Home

I wonder what other subliminal messages we are receiving through logos and advertising.



Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat lteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit  a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Monday 24 September 2012

Friday Night Dinner

Friday Night Dinner

Friday Night Dinner, known to the cognoscenti (love that word!) as FND, starts a second series on Sunday 7th October. You may hate it – that’s your prerogative, but if you like it, even love it, don’t forget to turn on and tune in to Channel 4(that sounds rather old-fashioned, somehow, like a 60s rock ‘n’ roll show)  on Sunday 7th  October at 10.00 p.m. (or 22.00 hours)

I am reliably informed by sources close to the writer (actually the writer himself) that Grandma features quite heavily. Of course, he may be teasing . . .

My apologies to those of you who may not be able to access the YouTube clip.

Mag 136 The Dream

Flying Down, 2006, by David Salle

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid who organises and hosts this meme. To read more Magpies please click here.

The Dream

They say that eating cheese before bedtime causes nightmares. I didn’t eat any cheese last night and I wouldn’t say I had a nightmare but I was glad to wake from a confusing night’s disturbed sleep and discover that my life was normal – ordinary, maybe, but normal.

I don’t usually remember my dreams but this one was particularly vivid, full of movement and colour. One moment I was in the bath, the next I was flying in a small passenger plane with no idea where I was going or why.  I stood up and discovered I was naked from the waist down except for wellington boots. That was embarrassing and I tried to explain it to the pilot, who, meanwhile, had turned into a magician; that was quite fitting as I always think there must be some magic trick to keeping heavy objects in the air. He wasn’t listening to me. He was performing a routine to an audience that was heckling and jeering. So disappointed was he that he disappeared, literally faded as I watched, telling me as he went that he had a fine gift for me and it would be delivered very soon.

As the last vestiges of the pilot/magician evaporated a crane swung towards me. Sure enough it was my gift, but what a gift. Super-sized earrings for my ears, they looked more like missiles but then maybe that’s what I needed to catch the attention of the man of my dreams. Sadly, the object of my amour had been transformed into a dying duck – elegant and beautiful to watch in his plummet to earth. And then, finally, as I struggled to make my voice heard, felt I was strangling, tried to call out, a sneering double-eyed cartoon vortex spun towards me. I feared abuse but the creature, so colourful, so insane, passed me by, my naked butt still on display, and plunged into . . . and then I woke up, heart pounding, glad to be  . . . dull.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Reading List

Reading List

All the blogs in my Reading List have disappeared. It happened just as I was spending some time catching up on them. Were they spirited away by some unseen Force or did they see me coming and run away?

The blogs have always returned on previous occasions but I have an uneasy feeling that maybe, just maybe, this time they will abandon me completely. I shall be bereft. I shall have to search my memory to find them again. But suppose I can’t remember? Shall I have to search out new blogs? Will my followers leave (unfollow as it is known on Twitter) in disappointment that I no longer visit their blogs?

Come back, blogs – I miss you. I didn’t mean to treat you so meanly. I promise I will pay you more attention if only you will return.

Yours, in sorrowful hope . . .

Tuesday 18 September 2012


When I was filing my Monday blog post I came across one I published just over two years ago. So here it is again, slightly rejigged – an appropriate verb to use for a piece about dancing.

Dancing was part of the physical education programme at the all-girls’ grammar school I attended from the age of eleven. We learnt country dancing (Strip the Willow and Sir Roger de Coverley), Old-Tyme dancing (the Veleta and the Military Two-Step), and ballroom dancing (the Cha Cha Cha and the Foxtrot). We galloped sweatily round the gymnasium, enjoying the exercise and trying, not very hard, to remember the moves. Although it was enjoyable most of us would rather have been climbing ropes or vaulting.

One of our PE teachers was a talented ballroom dancer but we callow lasses didn’t appreciate that as we watched her spinning skilfully round the hall with her female partner. Our comments were uncharitable at best. We had little understanding of, or interest in, anything other than ourselves. All the staff members were women - the advent of two male teachers a few years later caused a great buzz of unnecessary enthusiasm.

On wet lunchtimes we couldn’t go outside and so dancing was organised in the assembly hall. The music was provided by records and we always wanted the polka. I remember still the heady excitement of swinging giddily round the room with my friend.

When we were about fourteen or fifteen the staff organised a ‘formal’ dance and we all dressed up in our finest. My mother made me a very pretty dark pink Empire line dress and one of the highlights of the evening was commenting on what everyone else was wearing. We were used to seeing each other only in our hideous green uniform in school. We danced together decorously, the bolder girls inviting teachers to partner them. I wonder what those women made of the event. Many of them, though they seemed ancient to us, were probably in their late thirties or early forties and had probably lost fianc├ęs in the war. It must have been bittersweet for them as they twirled around the parquet flooring in the embrace of adolescents, some of whom, in the time-honoured manner of girls’ schools, had crushes on them. Looking back I applaud the magnanimity of those adults in volunteering to supervise us and even accept invitations to dance – or maybe they had been coerced into it by our less than amiable headmistress.

When I was eleven I was one of the smallest girls in the school. By the time I left I was among the tallest. This meant I had to take the man’s role in ballroom dancing. This played havoc when I went out into the wider world and actually had to dance the woman’s part but by the time I started going to village hops and town dances most of the dancing was solo; that is, a boy might ask a girl to dance but there was little physical contact –that is, physical contact wasn’t compulsory.  

I was always among the anxious wallflowers until the final, desperate, traditional ‘Last Waltz’ began when every lout youth in the room homed in on the unloved to claim a dance. Being clammily clasped by an inebriated boy who was keen to boast that he had a girl-friend, however tenuous the relationship might be, was not a dream ending to a night out. Nevertheless, it was better to dance the Last Waltz with anyone at all rather than remain on the touch line like an abandoned shipwreck. I liked dancing, though, particularly on my own. I loved the Charleston but there wasn’t much opportunity to dance that. I really enjoyed the Twist and hearing Chubby Checker’s ‘Let’s Twist Again’ always makes me want to dance. I had a ‘twist dress’ that I wore every Saturday night – it was brown and swirled most pleasingly as I twisted the night away. 

When we reached the dizzy heights of the fifth form and were almost adults – or so we thought ourselves – our school arranged a joint dance with the boys’ grammar school. Oh, the delirious excitement of it all! Some of my contemporaries already had boyfriends at the school so they were paired with them. The rest of us losers we young ladies were allocated partners, sight unseen.

It was nerve-wracking waiting to discover one’s escort for the evening and, in the event, mutually disappointing, I’m sure. We gazed enviously at our superior and rather smug peers who had come with partners they’d chosen for themselves, tried to be polite and longed for the evening to end. I was relieved that my escort was taller than me for I was quite tall (did the teachers take height into account or were we put together alphabetically?) but the dancing was deplorable, on both our parts. He managed to keep his feet off mine, for which I was thankful, and while he wasn’t actually counting the beats out loud his movements were somewhat staccato. I don’t think the boys had received much dancing instruction but at least they knew they were supposed to be ‘leading’. I knew I was supposed to be following but I was so accustomed to taking the lead that I was fighting him for the privilege. 

At some point there were refreshments but time has mercifully over-ridden all other memories of that evening. Certainly, it was not the stepping-off point to a beautiful friendship. I wonder if he ever thinks of that night. I wonder, too, if the experiment – the enforced socialising - was ever repeated.

When the mood takes me these days I dance in the kitchen, on my own, or with a dog or rather surprised cat. Barry doesn’t dance if he can avoid it, making an exception only for jiving, which he really enjoys. One of these days he will spin me out and fail to catch me as I return and I’ll crash unceremoniously into the wall. No doubt he’ll have a camera automatically recording to film the incident.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Mag 135 Dancing

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid who organises and hosts this meme. To read more Magpies please click here.
Venus and the Sailor, 1925, by Salvador Dali


‘Shall we dance?’ he said and together they fell into step, dipping, stretching, and gliding across the burnished boards. The music engulfed them as they pirouetted and twirled, she under his arm, then he under hers. They saw nothing else, felt nothing else but the rhythm and the blood pounding in their veins.

He pulled her close, his arms encircling her and her heart beat faster as their bodies touched, his chest against hers, his thighs pressed to hers, one hand on the small of her back, guiding her, just so, just so. She wanted to dance forever, for the moment never to end.

She gazed into his eyes, saw her passion reflected there. Her lips parted, he bent his head to hers and the music swelled as it came to a climax.

The little girl shut the lid of the music box and went to have her tea.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Roe deer

The doe is watching the dogs pass by
The deer in our local forest are roe deer, the most numerous of Britain’s native deer, and at this time of the year their coats have changed from the dark grey or brown of winter to a rich russet. It is quite usual for us to see one or two roe deer when we take the dogs walking, particularly towards evening. The deer are watchful but not easily startled, only taking flight if one of the dogs gets within twenty yards. Then they bound away and melt into the trees. 
Here she's watching Barry, trying to understand what he's doing
 We have often seen deer lying down in patches of sunlight. This gives them an opportunity to chew the cud. Usually they lie where they have been feeding only if they feel secure. One of the places we have seen them is about a hundred yards from the path we follow.
It's difficult to get buck and doe together in one frame!
In the last three weeks, since late August, we have regularly seen a young buck and doe. They are keeping company because this is the breeding season. The rut takes place from July to September. Does usually bear twins which are born the following spring, between April and June. In exceptionally good conditions a doe may have triplets. 
He looks as though he's saying, 'What are you looking at?'
Roe deer are the only deer that delay implantation so that the young are born when conditions are favourable, in that the weather is more clement and there is sufficient food and fresh plant growth. Others among the one hundred or so mammals that delay implantation (embryonic diapause) include stoats, badgers and rodents.
Spotting them is sometimes difficult . . . 
Can you see him now?
Here he is lying down 
Moving away unhurriedly
 I found a useful site that shows how to calculate the age of a buck by its antlers and I think ‘our’ buck is a two-year-old.

The antlers are shed each year and unusually for British deer, the roe buck casts and regrows them in the winter when good food is not readily available.

I am linking to Camera Critters.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Light relief

As a little light relief I thought I'd post an extract from a book I'm working on. It's taken from a chapter about a children's party. They are attempting to play a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

When Mike and Jane realised that none of the children was likely to get within a stone’s throw of the donkey, let alone its nether regions, they decided to let them have a go without blindfolds. The first child stuck the tail on the donkey’s nose, the next on its hindmost hoof. Three children opted for the pleasantly rotund mid-portion of the donkey, one for its eye, another for its ear. The rest of the guests went for the hindquarters, or rather the back half of the animal. No-one came anywhere near the right position, which made Mike wonder if any of them had ever seen a donkey, or horse, or cow or indeed any quadruped with a tail.

‘Does anyone know where a donkey’s tail goes?’ Mike asked cheerfully.

The tiny doll-sized girl’s hand shot up. ‘I do,’ she yelled. ‘On his bottom,’ and she giggled. The rest of the children went into paroxsyms of laughter at this rude word and repeated it excitedly to each other behind their hands, eyes wide with shocked delight.

Mike looked despairingly at his wife who was struggling to maintain a straight face.

‘Very good,’ he said. ‘Would you like to show me where his bottom is?’

The tiny doll-sized girl put her hands over her face and peeped out at him through her laced fingers. She shook her head.

‘Would anyone else like to show me?’ he appealed, but his words were lost on his audience, who were rolling around on the floor, clutching their stomachs and gasping as they cackled.

‘Can anyone show me where the donkey’s tail should go?’ he asked, hoping that sanity might be restored, but the children were seized by hysteria and a couple were going red and starting to cough and splutter. From experience with his own children, Mike recognised that overexcitement would soon lead to tears and possibly vomiting and loss of control of other bodily functions.

‘I’ll show you, shall I?’ he boomed and lurched energetically towards the donkey whose cheerful smile exhibited a mocking aspect he hadn’t noticed before.

In his haste to reestablish normality he failed to notice his shoe laces were tied together until he was brought to a sudden, undignified halt. Overbalancing, he crashed to the floor, narrowly missing a small ginger child who had been watching him since he entered the room. The cherubic blond boy was also watching and Jane thought she detected glee on his face.

‘Shi- shall I show you?’ Mike bellowed, heroically resisting the urge to swear loudly and profanely. The small ginger child stuck its third and fourth fingers in its mouth and its little finger in its nose and gazed at Mike as he fumbled his laces undone and struggled to his feet, rubbing his knees. The tiny doll-sized girl giggled suddenly and said, ‘You’re funny, you are. You’re funny. I think you’re funny.’

She looked at the other children and said, ‘We all think you’re funny. You’re funny, you are.’

All the children started chanting, ‘You’re funny, you are, you’re funny.’

Mike bared his teeth in what he hoped was a smile, which Jane later informed him looked about as convincing and heartwarming as Hannibal Lecter’s menacing leer. He picked up the donkey’s tail and attached it to the correct part of the animal’s anatomy.

‘There,’ he said triumphantly. ‘You see? Now, which one of you would like to have a go?’

The tiny doll-sized girl looked pityingly at him and said in tones of infinite patience, ‘Well, it’s there now, so you’ve won, haven’t you?’

The small ginger child sucked harder at its fingers, the cherubic blond boy muttered some more about pass the parcel and Alexander burst into tears and punched his father in the groin. Mike gasped and sat down heavily on the sofa. As he fought to prevent the colourful Anglo-Saxon words that were trying to force their way past his teeth, Jane took control and called the children to the kitchen for tea.

The ensuing fracas was eye-opening. The tiny doll-sized girl stood on her chair and reached across the table to grab a bowl of crisps. She sat down and put a protective arm around the bowl, shrugging off all comers with a snarl and cramming crisps into her mouth at an astonishing rate. The blond cherubic boy took bites out of several slices of pizza before replacing them on the plate.  Another boy, one of the tough-looking kissing duo, spat out everything he tasted and disliked, which proved to be most things. Alexander licked his finger and swiftly marked half a dozen chocolate fancies before snatching the plate with all the cheese and pineapple skewers and disappearing under the table.

The small ginger child piled its plate with cocktail sausages, ate one and knocked the plate off the table as it suddenly realised it desperately needed the loo. It asked Jane to help with the intricate buckles on its shoulders. Thus it was that Jane was able to ascertain that, despite all appearances to the contrary, the child was a boy. She had been fooled by the long ginger ringlets and the elaborate rings and bracelets he was wearing. His name was androgynous – Kim. His clothes, too, gave little clue to his gender. He was wearing dungarees, true, but they were red and white gingham with flower motifs over a silky pale blue polo neck. The shoes on his neat little feet were black patent with big silver bows.

‘Kim,’ she asked as she fastened him back into his outfit. ‘Have you any brothers or sisters?’

He gazed at her, long lashes shading his wide eyes. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’m the one and only, never lonely.’

‘Oh,’ said Jane, somewhat taken aback.

‘Mummy and me, together we’re free,’ he said.

‘That’s good,’ she murmured.

‘I love her and she loves me,’ he added.

‘Lovely,’ breathed Jane.

‘Together till eternity,’ he sighed.

‘What a strange child’ thought Jane. ‘Does he always speak in rhyme?’ 

Monday 3 September 2012

Mag 133 Recall

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid who organises and hosts this meme. To read more Magpies please click here.
Summer Night, 1913, by Albert Bloch


It was there, just beyond reach. If only he could recall . . . Perhaps if he sat quietly for a while as the woman had suggested it might come back to him but that was something he couldn’t do. He paced. He looked about him. There were others in the house but he didn’t know them though some looked familiar. Why was he here? It wasn’t his home. He wanted to go home. Someone could take him - he had money. Then he could live on his own again. He didn’t like it here. He didn’t like the people. They stared at him and made him angry. He couldn’t understand what they were saying and they wouldn’t go away. He threw a cup at the woman nearest him. What was in the cup?

At meal-times he sat among strangers and ate food he hadn’t ordered though the woman told him he had. She had lied to him. Afterwards he paced again. Where were his parents? His sister had come to visit. She was older than him – fifty-six. He asked her about his parents. She told him they were dead. Why hadn’t anyone told him? He told her his things had been stolen. She found them in a drawer and showed them to him but they weren’t his. She was lying. Everyone was lying. No-one understood, no-one believed him. The fog in his head grew thicker and the words wouldn’t come.

His sister went to talk to the woman. He listened. The woman said, ‘Your father’s not too bad today, a little aggressive, but manageable.’

What did she mean? Her words were a blur. She was lying again.

‘He was trying to tell me about his boyhood home but he couldn’t remember the name. He got very agitated – his vocabulary is so limited now but he’s in remarkably good health for a man of his age. Ninety-eight next week, isn’t he?’

The man wrung his hands. He hated it here. He would escape and go home to . . . the name was there, just beyond reach.

His sister came back. What was she called?

 ‘Goodbye, Dad. See you in a few days.’