Monday, 27 November 2017

Supergran at the Supermarket

I have a gun and know how to use it.

I’M not averse to a little shopping - trying on shoes, finding that perfect dress or buying jumbo Toblerone, that kind of thing. But supermarket shopping is a different story. I find it hard to get excited over bargain packs of baked beans. And you won't see me with my calculator working out whether it's cheaper to buy a mammoth box of soap powder or three little ones.

Then there’s the way supermarkets make it impossible to work out the comparative prices of certain items unless you have a degree in mathematics.

I was looking at the tomatoes this week. There were loose ones, priced per kg; some in a bag, priced per lb; and others wrapped on a polystyrene tray that were priced per tomato. I presume it’s all designed to confuse the shopper so that they might accidentally pick up the dearest item.

Supermarket prices, too, go up and down all the time. You don’t know from one day to the next what price your kilo of butter will be. The government tells us inflation is at an all-time low, working it out with a supposedly representative “basket” of goods. I don’t know what the government is putting in its shopping basket - a packet of Polos, a dog lead and a book called How To Pull The Wool Over Voters’ Eyes, I should think.

They’re certainly not filling it with anything I buy regularly from the shops. Last year a big tub of butter was costing me £2, now it’s £2.39. I’d tell you what the percentage increase was if I could work it out.

I also have an unerring instinct for getting in the wrong queue. A man who’s lost his bank card? I’m in that queue. The check-out girl who finds the need to comment on every item as she scans it very slowly? I’m the one raising my eyes to heaven. A woman who’s decided she’s forgotten something and sets off at a trot to find it and is gone for ten minutes? That’s me two people back, drumming my fingers on a packet of fishfingers.

All this reminds me of a story I heard, which I’d love to be true but am pretty sure is just an urban myth.

An elderly American woman did her supermarket shopping and, upon returning to her car, found four young men about to drive off in her vehicle. She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun (this is America, after all) and screamed, ‘I have a gun, and I know how to use it. Get out of the car.’

The young men ran.

The woman loaded her shopping and got in the car - but she couldn’t get her key into the ignition. She glanced over her shoulder and spotted a football and two 12 packs of beer. A few minutes later, she found her own car parked a few spaces farther down. She drove to the police station to report her mistake. 

The sergeant to whom she told the story couldn’t stop laughing. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale young men were reporting a car-jacking by a mad, elderly woman described as white, less than five feet tall, glasses, curly white hair, and carrying a large handgun.

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Friday, 24 November 2017

Do It "Dreckly"

Unless you're from the west of the England, you have probably never come across the word "dreckly". It's a great word and we use it all the time here.

It's short for "directly" as in, "I'll do it directly," or "I might get round to it sometime if I'm in the mood and can be bothered," or "This is so far into the future that I'm not going to think about it now." But sometimes it just means "later" and the promised event turns up a while later, it might be in an hour's time or it could be six months. You never quite know what you're going to get with "dreckly"!

It's similar to the word "manana" but not nearly so urgent.

My mother used this word a lot. Whenever you asked a question like, "When are we going to the seaside?" the answer was always, "Dreckly." Or it might be something like, "When will I be allowed to go shopping on my own?" Dreckly. "Can I  have a new toy?" Dreckly. "When will I be old enough that you stop spitting on your hankie and rubbing my face?" Dreckly.

It's symptomatic of a fairly laid-back way of life. Things will happen in their own good time and there's no point in worrying.

There, that's this post finished. I hope you all read it but if you don't have time now, try to get round to it dreckly.

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Friday, 17 November 2017

Artistic Licence

So you find this on your lovely white wall.

So what are you going to do about it? Give the child a good talking to and paint over the drawing?
Not necessarily...... Here's one dad's response:

Made me laugh!

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Friday, 29 September 2017

Food, Glorious Food

My Devon Life column for the Food and Drink issue in June. Take a look at the subscription offers - they're very good!

Here's a cheesecake. Not the one I made. Mine was considerably
messier - but tasted very nice!

HERE I am, a well-padded Devon Maid of a certain age. I bet you assume I’m a good cook. Well, you’re wrong. There are certain dishes I have got down to a fine art, like Sunday roasts and cottage pie but you will never find me in the kitchen rustling up a nice piperade or blanquette de veau, although I have been known to turn chicken stew into coq au vin by chucking in half a bottle of red wine.

I am quite good at cooking fish as I have a nephew who goes sea fishing off Exmouth and brings me mackerel and pouting. There’s nothing better than mackerel fillets, from fish that were swimming in the sea a few hours ago, simply pan-fried and seasoned. I use pouting as I’d use cod. Occasionally there’s a lovely big bass which I stuff with herbs, butter and lemon juice and bake in the oven.

He, incidentally, is a brilliant cook, unlike his brother whose foray into domestic science when he was at school consisted of flapjacks and sausage rolls in his morning cookery lesson. They were carefully packed into a cake tin and placed in his duffel bag. He then proceeded to play football with his friends all through the day’s playtimes while the bag bounced around on his back. In the evening he proudly opened up a tin full of a jumbled mass of cake, pastry and sausages

As for me, there are no home-made jars of chutneys and pickles lining my shelves or a nice sourdough or focaccia loaf still warm from the oven on my bread board.

The only time I tried to make bread, the better half used it as a door-stop. He thought he was hilarious. Me, not so much.

In my defence, I had been using an ancient bread-maker given to me by my mother who neglected to tell me that this machine had been made at the dawn of bread-making technology. It gave up the ghost half way through its cycle and fused all the electricity in the house. I reset the trip and as the dough still looked a bit ‘bready’ I finished cooking it in the oven. Not one of my better ideas.

I’ve given up bread-making for now but I am considering trying it again after reading that Paul Hollywood says kneading dough gets rid of bingo wings.

So each evening at around 6.30pm I am usually flinging open cupboards to see what I can throw together to make something vaguely edible, wondering if I can defrost a lamb chop or two before the starving man gets home for his tea.

Even so, I try not to get all my food in supermarkets and manage to visit a proper market now and again. I’m always drawn to those specialist stalls piled high with wonderful things like olives stuffed with garlic, fine cheeses and exotic sausages. Then there are the mounds of vegetables which taste so much better when they are really fresh and haven’t been languishing under cellophane on a shop shelf for a few days.

I have realised you don’t actually have to cook to present a delicious meal. What could be better than a plate of oat cakes with two or three different cheeses and pickles or a platter of assorted cold meats, chutney and fresh bread?

My absolute best no-cook creation is a cheesecake. Even the better half loves it. So here’s the recipe:

No Cook Cheesecake


125g digestive biscuit crumbs
5 tablespoons dark brown soft sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g butter, melted
450g cream cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
450ml whipping cream
5 tablespoons caster sugar
some kind of fruit, like strawberries, raspberries or oranges
a coulis and/or cream to serve (both optional)

1. In a small bowl, stir together the digestive biscuit crumbs, dark brown soft sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter and mix well. Press into the bottom of a tin with removable base.  Chill until firm.
2. Beat together the cream cheese and lemon juice until soft. Add whipping cream and beat with an electric mixer until mixture becomes thick. Add the sugar and continue to beat until stiff.
3. At this point stir in some of the fruit (roughly chopped), leaving enough to decorate the top of the cheesecake.
4. Pour over chilled biscuit base, and top with fruit. Chill for several hours or overnight.
5. Serve with a coulis and/or cream.

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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Adult Celebrities Look Older Than They Did 40 Years Ago Shock

I HAPPENED upon a website which gleefully told me that some stars had become "unrecognisable" from their heyday. Must admit I had no idea who a lot of them were, either "before" or "after".  Lark Voorhies? Jaleel White? Lynn Whitfield? Not a clue.

But of those I had heard of, there were a variety of reasons why their appearance had changed  - excessive plastic surgery, weight gain and a debauched lifestyle all figured prominently.

But most of them had changed BECAUSE THEY WERE DECADES OLDER.

Take a look at former French film star Brigitte Bardot. Yes, she looks older now. Why? She's 82, for God's sake! And in a move I greatly admire, is one of the few female stars not to have had plastic surgery.

Some 55 years separate these two pictures of Brigitte Bardot.

Another star held up as ageing badly was Kathleen Turner. Poor Kathleen, not only had she had the cheek to put on weight she had also had the temerity to get to the ripe old age of 63.

Kathleen Turner pictured in the 1980s and 2017.
Bizarrely, several child stars were held up as examples of how celebrities change. So Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series, now looks different as a fully grown man than he did as a young boy. You think?

Rupert Grint as a child star and now a young man.

And Jake Gyllenhaal looks older at the age of 36 than he did as a child actor at the age of 9. I don't know what the world is coming to.

Jake Gyllenhall has had a long, successful career and is now 36.

So, take the advice of Noel Coward and don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington.

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington Don’t put your daughter on the stage She’s a bit of an ugly duckling, you must honestly confess And the width of her seat would surely defeat Her chances of her success.

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

How To Grow Old Gracefully

When it comes to getting older, you have to look on the bright side.

Don't let the youngsters have it all their own way.

Make sure you keep up with all that new technology.

Keep your finger on the pulse of popular culture.

And stay safe on those mean streets.

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Monday, 4 September 2017

Weird? We Brits are not weird...

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch in Wales

WE Brits, of course, are all perfectly normal. It's the rest of the world that's mad.

So I have rather taken issue with an internet article asking foreigners what they found strange about Britain.

Most of the comments about “weird Britain” were predictable, like our obsession with tea. In fact, an Asian American couldn’t believe it when he visited Cambridge and saw a young man who looked around his mid-twenties drinking tea from a Victorian teapot “with the flower design and everything”.  You could almost hear the shock in his voice as he wrote: “I’m talking about those teapots that appear antiquated and seem like they’re over a hundred years old!”

Queuing was a concept some people found strange. Karen from Denmark said:  "I'm surprised how much you guys are into queueing. It’s unbelievable. And if stares and tutting could kill, people who cut the line would drop like flies." Karen, Karen, Karen. We British know that if there is no orderly queue a breakdown in society soon follows. 

Our reality TV shows seemed to puzzle foreigners and they really couldn’t get their heads around Towie (The Only Way is Essex) or Geordie Shore detailing the exploits of certain fame-obsessed wannabe young people. They’re not alone; they are gibberish to me too.

However, I was rather worried by the man who seemed to think Midsomer Murders was also a reality show, unable to believe that so many dastardly deeds were committed in such a small area. It was, he said: “Worse than Mexican cartel towns.” My non-British friends should know that Midsomer Murders is a fictional detective programme!

Then there was our obsessive politeness with our "polite" responses often hiding what we really mean. So, "We should do this more often," actually means, "I hope I never see you again," and "Oh, how interesting," really means, "I would rather die than listen to you any more."

Do we use a lot of vinegar? Apparently we do. One man called Tobias from Germany commented: "I was surprised how much vinegar they use. On crisps, chips, beans… Yuck!" Nothing wrong with a splash of vinegar, Tobias!

And finally, the pronunciation of place names was baffling to many with one person asking: “How in the name of Lady Jane Grey does ‘Leicester’ only have two syllables?” wrote one bemused visitor. Hopefully he never visits Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch in Wales. Yes, foreign readers, this is an actual place name!

I refrained from adding my comment to the site and telling him that in Devon, where I live, we have two Woolfardisworthys, one in Mid Devon and one in North Devon, and both are pronounced Woolsery. I think he would have exploded.

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Saturday, 2 September 2017

Celebrity Confidential

Miley Cyrus. Who said romance was dead?

I'm going to make the better half sign a confidentiality agreement so that he can't slag me off to his mates when he's in the pub. He'll have to tell them I'm a babe brimming over with the milk of human kindness and never reveal that he's living with a harpy with a God complex.

Celebs do it, so why can't I? In fact you can download a Celebrity Confidentiality Agreement template from the internet. Do a search and dozens of templates will pop up.

You can understand why celebs get a bit twitchy when it comes to the hired help. They have carefully cultivated an image of a benevolent paragon of virtue,  so they really don't want anyone to know  about the drugs, booze, bad behaviour and the fact that they treat their staff lower than a snake's belly. When they step out in public that have been primped and groomed to within an inch of their lives so they don't want a picture of them picking their nose, wearing trackie bottoms and slobbing out in front of the TV plastered all over the internet.

There must be dozens of nannies itching to tell their story but can't lest they get hammered with a fine so huge they would have to sell their home, kids and granny to pay it.

Arnold Schwarzenegger - got the nanny pregnant.

Among the long list of stars who've allegedly begged the nanny for a spoonful of sugar are Ben Affleck, Jude Law, Mick Jagger, Ethan Hawke, Gavin Rossdale (when married to Gwen Stefani) and Arnold Schwarzenegger who in an act of wanton carelessness not only slept with Mildred Beana but got her pregnant too.

Say, for example, your celeb employer has "accidentally" booked you and he/her into the same hotel bedroom, you will not be allowed to breathlessly share this information with the world. And if by any chance you are at a Hollywood party (we're there all the time, right?) and catch the eye of big showbiz star don't expect hearts, flowers and boxes of chocolates. No, a Non Disclosure Agreement could well be landing at your feet before you've even had time to blow into your hand to check your breath.

Singer Miley Cyrus is now settled with actor Liam Hemsworth but apparently when she was footloose and fancy free she got her assistant to interview prospective love interests. Not only did they have to sign the agreement but were also prohibited from taking cameras and phones on the "date". Oh, and they had to agree not to bring flowers. Who said romance was dead?

Justin Bieber demanded guests and staff sign an agreement before a party he threw. There was a ban on texting, tweeting, phone calls, Facebook, or any other form of communication. No wonder he tried to keep the details secret because it subsequently emerged that police were called three times and that strippers, booze and drugs all featured heavily. Although I don't suppose that's much different from any celeb party. What do I know? The last party I went to was a golden wedding anniversary - not much booze and drugs there apart from statins and tonic wine.

Kanye West - lose $10 million if you reveal information.
Then there was Kanye West, married to Kim Kardashian,  who apparently at the third season launch of his Yeezy fashion brand required the crew and models to sign a confidentiality agreement promising to pay a $10 million dollar fine if they breathed one word about the family. $10 million? What planet do these celebs live on?

So I'm going to have a go at getting the better half to sign an agreement. I know he doesn't have millions of dollars so I'm just going to get him to promise a lifetime of housework, cooking, cleaning and gardening if he dares reveal any information detrimental to my carefully cultivated image of a gracious goddess dispensing wisdom and kindness wherever I go.

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Thursday, 31 August 2017

What Doesn't Kill You

A  better saying than 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'.

WHAT doesn't kill you makes you stronger, they say.

What? You 'aving a laugh! Think about it; how can this possibly be true?

How about being hit by a massive chest infection and spending the rest of your life in an iron lung? How about a whopping accident which has paralysed you from the neck down? Or a severe mental trauma which has left you a gibbering wreck? How about being forced to watch back-to-back episodes of Are You Being Served? (For my American friends who have never heard of this sitcom, take a look at this.)

Stronger? I don't think so.

(Although watching this video I have to confess to a wry smile or two - it was so awful it was almost good!)

I much prefer the motto at the top of the page. You can cope with all life throws at you if you have a sense of humour, although the knocks and nibbles will warp and distort that sunny disposition until it makes it altogether more dark and stormy.

You learn how to cope. Other people may throw up their hands in horror at your weird way of dealing with a situation but who cares? Look, if I want to stick pins into a wax effigy of my ex, that's what I'll do because it makes me feel better. If I want to block out the world with inappropriate gangsta rap played at maximum volume, then do I'll do it.

What doesn't kill you doesn't necessarily make you stronger but use it and abuse it and you might just come out the other side.

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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Lipstick Optional

The Indigo Girls

WATCHING the wonderful Indigo Girls at the Cambridge Folk Festival, it came to me in a flash, stylistically, I am a lesbian. The evidence - hefty thighs encased in denim, flat boots, flyaway hair with no discernible style and a flannel shirt that could have come from a charity shop.

I am a friend of Dorothy from top to toe.

OK, so I have no desire to fondle a woman but when it comes to fashion I am definitely no man's arm candy and I'm not a cougar on the prowl chasing down her young prey in a short skirt, low top and thigh boots. If I approached my "prey" wearing that, he would leave Usain Bolt eating his dust.

The thought of wearing stilettos make my feet break out in a rash. I haven't got a figure for clothes to hug and I'm too frumpy for fashion. When it comes to clothes I'm more DJ Pat Pat than Portia de Rossi.

DJ Pat Pat

Portia de Rossi

I know I am doing many gay women a disservice and am guilty of woeful generalisation. I fully accept there are lesbians who are the height of chic. Take a look here for some extraordinarily beautiful gay celebs.

But I admire any woman who really doesn't give a damn when it comes to pleasing anyone but herself. I can get on board with that, straight or gay.

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Saturday, 1 April 2017

In Which I Attempt To Become A Domestic Goddess And Fail Miserably a desperate attempt to become a domestic goddess I decided to make scones for the first time in my life. 

I found a BBC recipe that looked really easy. Not wanting to take my laptop to the kitchen, I scribbled out the recipe on a piece of paper. In retrospect, I should have used my best Chawleigh Primary School handwriting rather than writing it so fast that it looked like it had been done by a four-year-old wearing boxing gloves. 

All went swimmingly and half way through cooking they looked lovely. They had started to rise and were turning a lovely golden brown. Then it dawned on me - I had forgotten to put any sugar in them. There followed a desperate scramble to get them out of the oven and try to press some sugar in them with a fork. I sprinkled some sugar over the top and put them back in the oven.

They are now looking like a train wreck on my kitchen counter.

I refuse to waste them. I shall sandwich them with butter and jam and put them in The Man's lunchbox. If he complains about them, I shall blame Tesco. 

You don't get older without getting wiser.

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Rules For Online Dating

I HAVE never joined an online dating site but but if the dearly beloved ever sells me for three camels and box of couscous, I might consider it.

I would be wary, though, not wanting to end up with a man whose idea of fun is watching back-to-back episodes of How It's Made (oh no, that IS the dearly beloved).

I have friends (male and female) who have negotiated the hazards of online dating so I have used their experience to draw up a few rules for you to avoid the escaped convicts, the sexual deviants and the terminally dull.

Beware of  how they describe themselves:
  • Attractive – frightens the horses.
  • Cuddly – fat.
  • Bubbly – fat and annoying.
  • Searching for a soulmate – stalker.
  • Open-minded – kinky.
  • Animal lover – house smells of dog wee.
  • Good sense of humour – enjoys endless reruns of Only Fools and Horses.
  • Vivacious – you’ll be sorry if you upset her.
  • Fiesty – upset her and she’ll come at you with a meat cleaver.
Then there’s that photograph. If it’s black and white, it was probably taken when men were making fire by rubbing two sticks together. These days he or she spends their time sipping weak camomile tea and watching Bargain Hunt on TV.

Generally speaking, try to imagine someone about 10 years older, a stone heavier and three degrees uglier than the picture provided – because they will have sent in an old, flattering photograph.
If the photograph is of a man wearing a hat, he’s bald. If he’s standing beside his motorbike, he’s having a mid-life crisis.

If it’s a woman cuddling a cat (this would be me!) then she’s borderline sociopathic.

Beware, too, of phrases like “I’m a man’s man”. This means that once he’s got you hooked he’ll expect his dinner on the table every night on the dot of 7pm and you’ll spend your nights alone while he’s in the pub with his mates burping the national anthem.

Just as bad is the woman who says she’s “a girly girl”. This is shorthand for as shallow as a saucer of milk. She judges everyone on how they look and knows every beauty-enhancing procedure down to the last staple...but has no idea who Theresa May or Donald Trump are.

Finally, if they ever use the word “discretion”, they’re married.

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Friday, 30 December 2016

Public Displays of Affection

 Here's a column I wrote for Devon Life back in July 2015. It still holds true for me!

LOOK, I am a Devon maid through and through, from the top of my wellies to the bottom of my scrumpy bottle. As such there as certain things that make me cringe and endeavour to crawl into a very small hole and hide away even though small holes and I are not exactly compatible.
We've reached July and there have been periods when the sun has actually shone. This has been wonderful for the locals and those tourists who are clever enough to see that Devon is God's own county.
But…but... the trouble is when you get lots of people out on the street you see the worst of one of  my bĂȘtes noire - PDAs, or Public Displays of Affection.
I don't mind people holding hands. In fact, the better half and I have been known to hold hands in public. Admittedly, only when we go on the Tube in London and I hang on to  him for dear life because I'm afraid of getting lost. And I think we held hands in the street once in 1980 - the year we met and new love had addled our brains.
On the whole though, we keep a respectable distance between us, although, no matter how much he’d like it, he doesn’t require me to walk ten paces behind him.
I don't even mind a quick kiss - at airports, railway stations and between grans and their grandchildren. It's the wholescale, full-on, should be in their own room type of PDAs I object to. 
I was in Exeter the other day - a beautiful city with fine cathedral and historic buildings. But the spirituality of the Cathedral green was rather marred for me by a young couple whose PDA was even worrying the pigeons; hands everywhere and lips locked.  I averted my eyes, as I noticed most other people were doing.
Eating lunch, a couple were anchored at the lips - and if it wasn't for the expression on their faces I would have thought he was trying to resuscitate her with mouth-to-mouth because a section of her Four Cheese Pizza had gone the wrong way. I don’t know when they found the time to eat.
Then in the car park was another couple - old enough to know better - who were clinging to each other for dear life and kissing more passionately than Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio as Jack and Rose in Titanic. At least Jack and Rose had the excuse that the darn ship was sinking and death was a distinct possibility. As for car park couple, obviously not married, I thought…at least, not to each other.
Am I alone in thinking like this? Is it because I was brought up in a family that although extremely close was not particularly physically demonstrative? We kissed our parents goodnight and we might submit to a peck on the cheek if we hadn’t seen each other for months. Apart from that it was a very manly handshake or brief hug.
Give me a ring in the middle of the night and tell me your car's broken down in Birmingham and I'll be there. Approach me with arms open wide and lips puckered when I only saw you last week and I go stiffer than a reinforced poker.
Not every country is as laid back about PDAs as Britain. We've read stories about the Middle East where tourists have been sent to jail for hugging or kissing in public. In China, bizarrely, only members of the same sex are allowed to hold hands or dance together in public. At one time it was the law that couples had to walk three feet apart while out in public. Good idea.
In Japan, families bow to each other when saying hello or goodbye. Respect and formality; now that's just the type custom I would like to see here!

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