A short break, folks!

I’m having a rest from writing – mostly because I can’t think of what to write about. I suppose it’s “blog writer’s block!

I hope the summer where you are is treating you well. ❤️

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CARS – part 2

In around 1980 my lovely little Mini had reached its end. I was teaching full-time in Snodland and needed a car to get to and from school and to ferry ‘Veronica’ and her friends around, so my father, who lived in California but kept a small current account in a British bank, gave me enough to buy a rather decent, not too old, used car. I went to the petrol station/used car dealer down the road from Market Cross Cottage where they had several cars I could afford and, after trying out a couple, I decided on quite a nice Datsun which was several steps up from the mini. Strangely, though I remember it was white and an automatic, I remember almost nothing else about it!

I do remember driving to school one day. In the back seat were sitting two boys, Wayne and Jason, brothers who had moved with their mother from Snodland to West Malling. As she had no way of getting the boys to school and getting to work on time, I had offered to take them. We were sitting at the junction with the A20 where I was going to turn left. Behind me was a van. I pulled out slightly to see if anything was coming from my right and the next thing I knew we were pushed out into the road by a loud bump from behind. (Luckily, nothing was coming!) I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the van much nearer than it should have been! All I could say, when I saw the driver on foot, approaching me was, “Why did you do that?”

He had seen my brake light go off and assumed I would go and, being a man, put his foot on his accelerator and followed. He was most apologetic but that didn’t really help my poor car which the insurance people said should be written off as it would cost more to repair it than the car was worth. Needless to say, I was not happy about that state of affairs. I couldn’t afford to have the boot lid or the rear light replaced so I covered everything that could possibly damage anyone who touched it with some strong tape and covered the light with red cellophane so that my brake light would show. [I’m not certain that one could get away with that these days!] I believe I used that car for more than a couple of months in that state before I finally scrapped it.

By that time Julian and I had got together and were “an item”. We had already decided to move in together and, as Julian worked in London and had to commute by train, I used his car from then on. It, too, was a Datsun – a turquoise Sunny. After that and for a fair few years we drove Datsuns. We found them reliable and economical, although one of our Datsuns, a brown Sunny estate, proved to be anything but reliable!

All went well for the first couple of months but I began to notice a strange substance on the driveway. It was like a thick brownish foam which appeared in various places in little clumps. We found out what it was the day we were driving to Oxford along the new M25 when the car began to overheat. We pulled over to the hard shoulder, next to a gate which was always closed – but stood wide open that day. We were able to sneak off the motorway via that gate and we found ourselves near the village of Seal which isn’t many miles from East Malling, where we lived by then. We went to a garage and filled the radiator with water and decided not to go to Oxford that day but to see why the radiator had suddenly overheated like that.

It turned out that there was a design fault in the cylinder head and, after having all sorts of costly work done on the car, we traded it in for another Datsun estate, of a different year.

I loved that car! It had the best ‘turning circle’ – even smaller cars I’ve driven since couldn’t compare – and, the windscreen wipers could be slowed down or sped up , unlike today’s wipers which have slow, fast, faster or off.

When Julian started a new job it came with a company car so we had to get rid of the Datsun estate and I bought a second-hand Nissan Micra – the square, older version. It wasn’t my first choice and it didn’t have any of the little luxuries I had had in the past but it got me from A to B which is all I needed it for.

A similar Micra to the one I had

A few years later we decided to open a shop where I would sell antiques and collectables and Julian would restore old and antique furniture and re-upholster people’s sofas and chairs. He also bought antique furniture which needed restoration and sold them on once they had been restored. Julian and I were joined by Pete, another ex-teacher, who quickly became a great asset to the business. He was great at the restoration side and was willing to learn the traditional upholstery that Julian did.

Obviously, Julian couldn’t pick up huge settees in a car and we couldn’t really afford to have three vehicles so I sold my Nissan and we bought a van for the business and a car we could both drive. Julian had always liked the looks of the Ford Sierra so we bought a dark blue basic Sierra and he bought a light blue van for picking up and delivering furniture (and we also used it to go to antiques fairs up and down the country including the NEC.)

Then, I spotted the car! The one I wanted above all cars! The Chrysler PT Cruiser!

My heart’s desire!

I began to look for PT Cruisers as I was driving to auctions or when we were going out for the day. Often I would spot one and sometimes 2 in a day! I looked at the red ones, the silver ones, the gold ones (NO, JUST NO!) and then I saw a black one. It reminded me of earlier cars I had seen in the movies as a child and I wanted one. I began to tell everyone that I was going to buy PT Cruiser when I had enough money. Then, I found that my sister, Jennie, actually owned a raspberry red one! JEALOUSY! Well, I wasn’t really jealous as I wanted a black one but it was close to jealousy.

When Veronica had a party to celebrate her second marriage, we toasted the happy couple in champagne. Now, I can get drunk just smelling alcohol so when Jennie offered to let me drive her car, I knew I couldn’t but I went and sat in the driver’s seat just for a few moments. That was the nearest I’ve ever been to driving my heart’s desire, I’m afraid. When I had enough to buy a second-hand car I just couldn’t bring myself to spend so much more on a Cruiser than I would on a Ford Focus, which is what I bought and, thirteen years later, am still driving. I still want a Cruiser and maybe I’ll get one when the Focus finally splutters to a stop – that is, if I haven’t spluttered to a stop first! It has been the most reliable of cars for most of that time. I bought it under warranty and within a few months the engine had to be completely replaced!

My rather untidy but useful Focus.

It had essentially the same problem as the brown Datsun estate. We found out about this problem not long before we moved to Broadstairs and it went to the garage to have its engine replaced only days before the moving day. Now, it sits in the driveway most days as I hardly use it. In the past couple of years I have driven fewer than 1000 miles per annum, going weekly to the shops and back and occasionally driving to a class or to visit a friend. I’m not really a keen driver any longer (I think I enjoyed it once upon a time)

We are probably at the end of my Car History but if not, I’ll let you know in another blog post.😄

Photo of PT Cruiser by Navigator84 (from wikimedia commons)

Photo of Micra by Kieran White (from wikimedia commons.

Photo of Focus by me!

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Cars

Back when I was fifteen, in 1958, it was the norm for high schools to offer driving lesson to those student aged sixteen. So, we left America and came to the UK where learning to drive was an expensive pastime, done only when necessary. Living in central London made it totally unnecessary to have a car so I didn’t learn in my teens. In fact I went through my early and mid twenties without bothering – the family didn’t even own a car – but in my late twenties I was offered a car which was old but had very little mileage on the clock. It was an Austin A55 Cambridge, made circa 1957 and a boring shade of dull grey but it was quite luxurious inside with red leather seats and a column gear shift. There were several things it didn’t have which are essential in today’s motoring including a heater and windscreen washers. I remember getting a friend to drill some holes in the bonnet and buying a do-it-yourself washer kit and installing it (more or less) by myself!

A Cambridge similar to mine, but nicer looking!

That car (nicknamed ‘Big Busty Bertha) lasted two or three years before the clutch gave out – I blame my driving instructor for that because he was always saying. “Cover the clutch, cover the clutch!”, which led to my driving with my foot resting on the clutch pedal. That was the car in which we did many of our trips from London to West Malling and back, the year Judy, Veronica and I lived in digs in London and went back and forth at the weekends.

One December night we were driving down the A20 on the last leg of our journey to West Malling for the Christmas holiday carrying our clothes, our bedding, my daughter, my sister and my mother (this must have been in 1972 and, as yet, there was no M20). As we went along the Swanley by-pass, a thick fog came down. I had never driven in fog and was very nervous. We drove up Death Hill (!) (near Brands Hatch) and I had great difficulty seeing where the road was – it was pitch black with thick grey fog swirling in my headlights. Being a total coward I was probably driving at fifteen miles per hour and I drifted to the left slightly, following the kerb only to find I was driving in a lay-by! I got safely back onto the road itself and drove through West Kingsdown and down Wrotham Hill. There were no street lights and no other traffic (thank goodness). At the bottom of Wrotham Hill was a roundabout. I thought I was at the roundabout and turned left only to find myself going up a bank on the roadside. By this time I was very nervous, made even more so by my mother who was the personification of ‘nervous’ and, when she demanded we pull into the empty petrol station at Wrotham Heath and phone a taxi, I was exceedingly relieved.

Before she rang for a taxi, my mother rang the police and asked them to come and pick us up so that we would get home safely! They declined 😳 so she phoned a West Malling taxi company who valiantly came out to get us and and drove us to Market Cross Cottage. (The fog lasted for three or four days and we paid for the taxi company to take a driver back to the garage and drive my car home as I was too scared to drive in the fog!)

After Christmas we drove back to London and it was some months later, I seem to remember, I had driven to my temp typing job (London Transport, I think) and the clutch just stopped working and I couldn’t put the car in gear. I phoned a garage who sent a young man out and I gave him the car! I’m sure he was pleased and, though I had to find my way home without my car, I was pleased I wasn’t having to spend any money to put it right!

My Cortina estate was grey and cream

Soon after, I found an early Cortina estate car. I took it to a local garage for them to look over as I hadn’t a clue about cars. They said they couldn’t recommend it but, they added, it looks all right, so I bought it. Within weeks I was back there having some major work done on the chassis! That car was okay and lasted a couple more years, though the starter motor caused me some grief from time to time and I learned how to jump up and down on the door sill to rock it enough to get the starter motor to start! (I think).

One day in 1975/6 I was driving through Snodland on my way to the school I was teaching in, when — the clutch went! (Damn and blast that driving teacher!). I struggled, somehow, to get into a side road and left the car there, phoned my garage who picked it up and disposed of it…. I don’t remember them sending me a bill, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I then bought a Mini Countryman from a small garage in East Malling.

A similar Countryman, but cleaner!

That car lasted me a good three or four years. I drove to work and back, took my daughter and her friends to their riding lessons, did the week’s shopping, went to the tip with old tat, and even tried to give a driving lesson to an older woman friend of my mother. That only happened once because, though she had (supposedly) had proper lessons, she went straight across a junction without looking either left or right! Luckily nothing was coming but I was shaking and made her trade places so I could drive home!

End of part one

(Copyright first two pics: Charles01; third pic: allenthepostman)

photos found on Wikimedia

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LOLA, DESTRUCTIVE FORCE!

As you who have read my blog about our new dog, Lola, will know, she is supposed to be a chihuahua crossed with a llasa apso. She is sweet and loyal, she rarely barks, she doesn’t pull me over when we walk, she likes other dogs and other people but is not so keen on cats, though she loves to chase those who dare to visit our garden.

I may have mentioned that she had destroyed the dog toy I bought for her rather quickly and she is very good at tearing the covering off doggy tennis balls and removing (somehow) the squeak-making doohickey of said balls. I was determined to find her a toy she couldn’t ruin too quickly and looked on Amazon to see if they had an indestructible dog toy.

There I found just the thing! It’s a finny looking little dinosaur thing made with a fabric which was described as a little less strong than kevlar. So I ordered one. It took over a week to arrive so Lola had to make do with her now non-squeaky balls and the quickly fraying rope toy. The strong toy wasn’t meant to arrive for another week or so and I was really pleased to find it in yesterday’s post!

I squeaked its squeaker so that Lola would look at it then threw it across the room. Lola was so excited! She chased and grabbed the little toy in her little, tiny mouth then ran back and forth. She dropped it in front of me and I threw it again, thrilled that I had found a toy that might last for a day or two. My thrill turned to anxiety when Lola decided to start chewing and found a place on the toy that was (mysteriously) suitable to spend time on. I watched, thinking she’d find it too tough to get through in a couple of minutes but, no, she carried on chewing with her back teeth, and – very methodically went straight through the fabric and the lining and spat out a chunk of filling!

I thought she must have found its one weak spot so I took the poor one-handed toy away from Lola, sewed up the hole and gave the toy back to her later in the afternoon.

Now Lola is back to playing with her used-to-be-squeaky balls and her even-more frayed rope toy!😳😳😳 Continue reading

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How to tell if you’re allergic to penicillin…

….perhaps your lips have swollen so that you look like you’ve been to a quack for ‘the pout’!

Last Friday night I found a small red and very itchy patch of skin on my left foot just where the fourth toe meets the main part of the foot on the top. Saturday morning it was still really itchy, Sunday morning it had grown and was ever so itchy! By Monday I was getting a bit concerned because the itchy rash covered the top of my foot and my fourth toe was bright red. During the day I realised that the rash was going up my leg so I thought it might be time for some medical advice.

Monday was a Bank Holiday in the UK so the doctor’s surgery was closed. Julian was out, I was feeling very tired – but not ‘ill’. When Julian came home — and before he went out to a singing group — I discussed going to A&E with him. I could probably drive but didn’t want to in case I was kept in the hospital (which happened last time I went to A&E). What would happen to my car? It’s expensive to park for more than a very short time at the QEQM.

We decided I could take a taxi if necessary but then I found an advert for NHS111, a number one phones to talk to a doctor about symptoms and what one should do. So, I dialled 111. I talked to a young man (obviously not a doctor but a layman with a script). He was very helpful and after we went through the various questions he said he would have an off-duty doctor ring to talk to me within the next 6 hours. That was about the length of time I would have to wait in A&E and I was quite happy to wait at home instead of among a load of people who were very possibly the worse for alcohol and others who would be coughing and spluttering and spreading their germs around.

In less than an hour a woman rang to see if my symptoms were worse then another half hour or so went by and another woman rang to give me an appointment at the 111 clinic at the hospital. She told me to go to the door with UE (or IE or EI or something similar) above it, ring the buzzer and give my name. [ringing a buzzer doesn’t seem to be possible but I can’t think how else to say it!] Julian was back in time to take me so I didn’t have to worry about my car. One thing I did do, though, was I took a bag with me that I had packed after my last emergency admission to hospital when I took nothing with me and Julian, the next day, had brought all the wrong stuff.

Anyway, the door was automatically opened, I went in and was greeted by a young man who introduced himself as Ralph, a clinician. We went into the consulting room, he looked at my foot, asked me various questions and prescribed some Fluoxycillin after ascertaining that I have never been allergic to penicillin-based drugs. Then, I went home. (The whole thing door to door took about 40 minutes as opposed to the many hours of waiting in A&E) Happily, I didn’t need my prepared bag so it is back upstairs for just-in-case.

I took the first Fluoxicillin on Monday night, the second in the middle of the night and the third when I got up (every six hours). I followed the instructions through Tuesday, slept well and woke on Wednesday……to find my lips were bright red and very swollen. I rang the doctor’s surgery and made an appointment. The doctor hadn’t yet received the report of my night-time visit to 111 so I went through all the details again. The doctor agreed that I seem to be allergic to the antibiotic so gave me a new prescription for Erythromycin.

I filled the prescription at a local chemist then went home, took my first dose and went to sleep during the afternoon. Julian helped with the cooking and I had very little to do which presumably is helpful to the healing of my foot/leg.

I woke this morning with my lips still so swollen that they would scare a child! Am I allergic to the second antibiotic or does it take a bit more time for the symptoms to disappear? Am I like this for life?😱 I just don’t know but will find out in time. Meanwhile, my foot does seem to be recovering, thank goodness, and the terrible itchiness has subsided.😅

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🎶LOLA, L-O-L-A, LOLA🎶 (WITH THANKS TO THE KINKS!)

After a year and a couple of months, Julian and I decided it was time to visit the Dogs Trust just outside Canterbury. I’ve been finding myself becoming breathless just walking to the corner of our road (through lack of fitness, I think, plus those *few* extra pounds I’ve put on in the last year or so) and Julian has missed the friendly, waggy tail greeting him when he came home. Rosie’s loss was a terrible blow to both of us – I still get weepy thinking about her – and we were not trying to replace her but I need to have a good reason to go out for a walk and it’s always exciting to welcome a new member to the family!

We arranged to go on the Sunday before the May Bank Holiday but Julian went out sketching and was back a little too late so we went on the Bank Holiday. We arrived there at about 12:30. It’s changed in the nearly thirteen years since we found Rosie there – the kennels are partly inside and have viewing windows rather than the much more utilitarian kennels of the past. There are two lots of kennels, each along an entire wall; there are half-walls between the viewer and the glass wall of the kennels making it impossible (rightly) to tap on the glass. On these half walls are sheets of information about the dogs, opposite each individual dog (or pair of dogs).

We walked along the first half-wall but didn’t spot what we were looking for — a small-ish dog which I could handle on a walk, mainly. We walked down the other side and saw a jack russell which is what Julian was hoping for, having met a jack russell with one of his painting friends. That artist brings his dog with him to most of the painting outings and the dog is friendly with other dogs and people, lies next to his master while he is painting and is unbelievably well-behaved! But, the jack russell we saw wasn’t ready for re-homing yet so we were a bit down-hearted. Julian was all for leaving straight away but I insisted that we should fill out a form first, saying who we are and what kind of dog we were looking for.

As I was filling in the form, a little dog came through the entrance with a man on the other end of the lead. The two went up to the counter and Julian whispered to me, “That dog has a small head!” I turned and looked — and agreed — then finished filling in the form and took it up the the counter. The woman there said we should sit and wait and someone would come and go through our form with us so we went back to the table and waited. A few minutes passed before another person came and went over our form with us. After hearing what it was we were looking for and why, she told us about the jack russell who wasn’t ready for re-homing, another who was in a ‘foster home’ and then she said, ” We do have a small dog which should have been going home today with a man but he has decided not to take her. She hasn’t spent any time here in the kennels because she has come from a family home and we know all about her, so she’s been living with a ‘foster’ mum. Her name is Eda and she is in the office right now. Would you like to meet her?”

We said that we might as well, as we were there and she was too, so the woman went off and came out of the office with that same dog with the ‘little head’. Eda was slightly wary but quite friendly, too. We took her for a woodland walk (the Canterbury Dogs Trust owns a lovely woodland right there) then came back and said we were interested.

Arrangements had to be made. Someone had to come and see if we and our garden are suitable; a dog must be visited at the kennels three times before an adoption can take place; the adoptive dog-parents must attend a “Pre-adoption Talk”. We arranged to visit Eda again on the following Friday and again on the Saturday, which was also when the talk would take place. And we would be able to take her home with us after the talk!

You already know, I think, that I find it difficult to get up in the morning due to the amitriptyline I take for the dreaded sciatica. The Dogs Trust is about 45 minutes from home and the pre-adoption talk was at 9:30am. That meant I had to get up no later than 8am if we were to leave at quarter to nine! Of course, the night before I was quite excited about seeing Eda and bringing her home so I didn’t sleep well at all but I did manage to get up early (for me) at half past seven. As we drove out of Broadstairs I was glad that the traffic wasn’t too bad but I was still anxious. What if we were late and missed the talk!

Luckily, we made it with a few minutes to spare. Another family were a bit late but all that happened was we all waited until everyone was there. The talk was just common sense things like what to feed your dog (a free 2 kilo packet of dried food was included in our ‘doggie bag’); about the use of a harness rather than a collar and lead; about phoning with any behavioural problems — and then we were each given our bright yellow Dogs Trust bag and sent into the main reception area to pay our fee, buy a harness for Eda and collect our new little housemate.

We took Eda for one last walk (before she was given the new name of Lola), then strapped her in the car via her harness’s special attachment and set off to Broadstairs. We had been told she hadn’t often been in a car so I sat in the back seat with her — remembering how very upset Rosie always was when we took her anywhere in the car.

Lola sat very nicely the whole way home! She didn’t once jump on my lap as Rosie had done. If Lola had jumped on to my lap I would have let her as she is such a lightweight. Rosie, on the other hand was quite a heavy dog and it hurt when she did it. Rosie’s ultimate goal was to get into the front seat and sit on Julian and my job was to hold on to her and stop that happening. In the end we got a nice cage for Rosie to travel in but we won’t need that with Lola.

SOME FACTS ABOUT LOLA:

She is around two years old and was bought, as a puppy, by the family who had her for most of her two years – a family of mum, dad and two very young children. We were told that due to ‘work circumstances’, they could no longer keep her so they gave her to the Dogs Trust who put her into a ‘foster’ home. She is, they said, a chihuahua x lhasa apso . She is small but not tiny, she is fast, she loves playing with her toys (and destroying them quickly), she eats well and sleeps all night without waking me up to go outside. She loves her walks which, so far have been around the nearby roads but, when it’s possible we’ll take her to the beach and to various parks. She runs round and round the garden, chasing a ball or, having caught it, carrying the ball. She always has a look in several places for the ginger cat who thought this was his garden until Lola came. She is full of energy but also likes to nap (getting ready for the next big energy spurt).

Today I went out shopping, leaving her with Julian. When I got home she desperately tried to leap from the floor into my arms and didn’t stop until I picked her up and gave her a cuddle. She’s not Rosie but she is worming her way into my heart!

Must finish, now……time for walkies!

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Mysterious goings-on

In the past month or so I have had 30 new followers on this blog, all of whom have outlook.com email addresses and almost all of whom have appeared and disappeared within a few hours, most without ever having read even one of my posts!

Of course, having extra followers is always good for one’s morale but for them to leave again quite so quickly could be seen as a bit of a downer. Luckily, when I see that the next one signs up with an outlook.com email address, I know they are not real.

I have mailed the (do you call it sponsor?) of my posts who has written back saying that this isn’t unusual and that they are doing what they can to stop these interlopers from appearing, almost daily. I am still left wondering why people — or bots — would even bother to do such a ridiculous thing. If anyone has an answer, I’d love to hear it!

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Bedroom Windows

I’ve had many bedrooms in my life. Our mother moved us quite a few times while we lived in America, then we moved to London where I had six different bedrooms, then to West Malling where I met my husband and we shared another four or so before moving to the seaside. I’m not counting all the times I’ve slept in hotels, summer camp, b&b’s, family overnights and hospitals. Below are some of the more interesting things I have seen, or thought about, from one or other of those bedroom windows.

My present bedroom looks out over our back garden to the fronts of the houses behind where there is a road in a dip with houses built on the far side. There is a house there which fascinates me and sets my mind imagining all sorts of stories. It is the right hand side of a semi-detached pair, built in the fifties or sixties, I believe. I know from looking up that type of house on the internet, that it has three bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor and a lounge, kitchen-diner and hallway with stairs downstairs. There are no signs of life from one year’s end to the next. I can see windows belonging to two of the upstairs rooms. Each room has curtains but they never close, nor do they open in any other fashion than they are open in the photo below.

The ‘mystery’ house’s windows where the curtains never close

My first thoughts were that the people living there were on holiday when I first noticed the curtains. I made up very short stories about the people who live there (away on a cruise in the Caribbean, flown down to Madeira, on a trek in the Himalayas), then I came to the conclusion that it is a holiday home for Londoners (there are quite a few of those here, though not many that are a ten minute walk from the beach) but, seasons have come and gone and no one has used those two bedrooms. My snoopiness has led to my looking out in the evenings and in the dead of night (insomnia!) to see if there are any lights on. I have walked past and the little front garden doesn’t give a clue as it is is covered with the kind of pebbles people use to make their gardens easy to look after and, though there are one or two plants growing through, I can’t tell if they are deliberate or not.

Recently, I have realised that my mother, who used to live in a smaller but similar house couldn’t manage the stairs during her last two years there so she used only the downstairs. Solved, I thought! But, I still don’t know! I could just go and ask the people in the left-hand side about the house but they would probably think I was some sort of scammer and not just an old lady with an imagination.

Before I slept in that room, I slept in the front bedroom with Julian. The window there looks out onto a very quiet road with relatively few cars going past and not much happening except before and after school when I can see mums (or dads) escorting their young ones to and from the various schools nearby. Across the road is a very nice detached house which is rented out to a young family with a lovely dog called Betty. Before they lived there, there was another family of mum and many growing boys, and before that it was owned and lived in by a single man with a sweet little staffie.

When we moved into our house, the one across the road, which is sideways on to ours because there is a right hand bend in the road just there, had a long garden behind a wall. Then, one day, the man who lived there sold much of his garden to a builder who built a very well-built modern but traditional house and then put it on the market.

The house across the road

The gossip is that the man had bought the house with money he won on the Lottery. Also gossip says that he was a drug dealer and though it is only gossip that would explain the night it was raided by police! The man seemed to come and go; sometimes he would not be seen for several months at a time, then he and his dog would return, sometimes in a different car than the one he had been driving before.

An early photo of the Rose and Crown where we later had our shop. The bedroom window is at the top on the left.

Before we lived at the seaside, we lived above our antique shop/furniture restoration business in West Malling High Street for around seven years (photo above) Our bedroom was at the top of the building and a tiny window with opened outwards. Sometimes it was noisy outside, being the High Street and the hub of night time entertainment in the small town.

One night, or rather early one morning, I was awoken by a strange noise. At first I just lay there thinking about what the noise could have been but then there were even louder noises coming from outside. I got out of bed and went to the window which I opened as far as it would go and stuck my head out. Now – remember I was only just awake – when I looked out I saw an enormous monster attacking a building up the road! I tried to work out what was happening, knowing full well, even in my half-asleep state, that monsters don’t attack buildings. I thought maybe it was an irate husband attacking a love-rival or some such nonsense before it finally dawned on me that it was thieves trying to break into a building.

Our phone was in the living room of the flat so I ran down a flight of stairs and dialled 999. The operator asked me which emergency service I was ringing and I said, “Police, please,” (always polite, me, even at four o’clock in the morning.) The operator dialled the police from her end and we both waited – and waited – and waited. While we waited for what must have been ten full minutes, the operator and I chatted. I told her what was happening, she told me that she couldn’t understand why no one was answering the emergency call. Eventually she dialled another number – and there was no answer from that one, either!

While all this chatting and waiting was going on the noise outside was continuing. I looked out the window several times to see what was happening and then reported back to the operator. Eventually, from the other direction, I saw a police car silently approaching, presumably hoping to catch the thieves unaware. The car stopped almost outside my window and I told the operator that the police had arrived — only then would she allow me to hang up.

I couldn’t see all that happened after the two young police women emerged from their car so I will switch to telling you what I found out afterwards.

The ‘monster’ was a JCB and it was attacking the service till in the wall of our local branch of Nationwide. The crooks operating the JCB had managed to remove the till, money and all, and were in the process of moving it to their Land Rover when the police arrived. In their hurry to escape from the police, the crooks tried to escape in the JCB but it was too wide to go down the little road they attempted so they jumped into their Land Rover, minus the till, and escaped to try another service till another night, somewhere else.

The attack on the building, built in the seventeenth century when no one had envisaged such punishment, meant that the entire building had to be evacuated then shored up and repaired. The Nationwide and the people who lived above had to vacate for some months but, eventually were able to return to a stronger, still seventeenth century, building.

That the police didn’t answer the 999 call has never been explained, though questions were asked. We did find out that the two young policewomen were notified by the fire service which had, presumably, been alerted by another phone operator or perhaps by a family friend who lived in the High Street and knew a direct number to the nearby fire station.

Only a few months later I was again woken by noises. This time it was a young man who had taken it into his head that one of our favourite restaurants, several doors away from the Nationwide, was an enemy and needed to be ‘broken’. Now, this restaurant had just been renovated with new, small-paned windows. The woodwork surrounding each pane had been beautifully painted. The young man found a scaffolding pole and proceeded to smash each toughened glass pane until it broke, breaking, in the process, most of the newly painted wood-work. Luckily, before he decided to attack any other building, the police came and took the young man away.

My bedroom window in Chiswick looked out over Chiswick High Road which was, and is, a very busy thoroughfare. We lived there in the sixties and nothing comes to mind that would interest the reader, except, maybe, that Jo Grimmond (leader of the Liberal party at that time) used to get on a bus at the bus stop across the road.

My bedroom in Queensway looked out onto windows of the ‘inner’ flats in the court. The only window of any interest might be that of ‘Old Naked’! Judy, the naughty devil, who was about fourteen, looked out one evening to see the young man in a flat across the way, lying on his bed with the curtains open and the lights full on, pleasuring himself! I couldn’t bring myself to look but Judy looked out most evenings to see if he was ‘putting on a show’ and if he was, she would call out, “Old Naked’s at it again!”

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PROSECCO + AMITRIPTYLINE = INSOMNIA!

A local restaurant sent me a voucher for a bottle of Prosecco because it was my birthday. Well, of course, we took advantage of it.

Julian had to go to a meeting on the actual day so we went last night and claimed my present and each had three courses (my diet is not working this week!) We ate and drank slowly, I had less than half the bottle (Prosecco is too bubbly and slightly sweet and, anyway, I’ve just about cut alcohol out of my life recently.).

We were home in time for me to watch a programme I had looked forward to seeing and I didn’t feel at all tipsy. I had a coffee (can’t sleep without a strong black coffee, believe it or not!), watched the programme, said good night and have a safe journey to Julian who is off to the airport in a few hours, did a couple of word puzzles and came to bed.

I turned on some “sleep music” which helps me (water, oboe, tinkly bells, harp – I think) and listened to the whole hour of it while it gently played — all the way through, which never happens!

I have tossed and turned and now it’s after four! I thought I was going to spend a leisurely morning then go to my tai-chi class but I think I’ll be so exhausted by noon that I won’t make it. Damnation!

I don’t know if everyone reacts in the same way to the combination but, if you have sciatica and take amitriptyline to keep it at bay, and if it’s your birthday and you’re given a free bottle, take care! Will I remember the next time? Probably not😟.

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3/4s of a century — That’s a fair old time!

One of my weird paintings! There are another three at the end of the post.

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There are quite a few elephants in this painting but most are hiding. c Oct. 2017.

Here I sit, pleased to have made it to seventy-five but really wishing I was somewhat younger.

At seventy-five (and, to be honest, also at seventy-four) I have begun to feel my age, not mentally (in my mind I’m still a teen-ager!) but physically. I find it difficult to walk to the station which is only twelve minutes’ walk away, not because of knees or feet but because of breathing – or rather, the inability to get my breath as I walk.

I’ve never been a great exerciser, which is probably one reason why I find it so difficult now. Back when I was eight, nine and ten, I was the person who was last in a race. I’ve always been short with short, slightly chubby legs (now, not so slight!) and I assume this was the reason for my lack of speed. At school I hated p.e. (phys ed, gym, games, whatever you call it where you live). My only real exercise, as a teenager was dancing. I could happily dance to pop songs for hours and still enjoy it today (although I fear it’s rather ‘granny-dancing’ now😧)

In my twenties and thirties I probably took the 10,000 steps that are recommended nowadays because I had a young daughter and didn’t drive – if it was within walking distance, I walked. When I finally got a car and my driving licence, I drove but still did some walking, when necessary! In my forties and fifties I walked with a group – sometimes ending up in a pub for lunch and driving home. Also in my fifties, my beautiful grand-daughter was born and I did a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with her as her mum was not at all well for several years after she was born. I used to take the train to London every week, collect Chloe from nursery or school, walk to the swimming pool, perhaps, or just walk back to her house and play, cook her and myself a meal and then stay overnight and take her to nursery/school the next morning. Her first school wasn’t too far from home but during the years she was in the later junior classes, it was a mile or more to walk – downhill on the way but uphill back to the station, and home.

When Chloe went to secondary school she was old enough to go on her own though on days when her mum couldn’t be home in the evening, I would try to be there and then when she was around sixteen I would only have granny duty if her mum was away at a conference for a couple of weeks. By that time I was in my sixties and things were going downhill, physically. Both of my knees started playing up, I got appendicitis, I had a sudden partial hearing loss, started getting carpal tunnel problems in both wrists and my hair, never a very interesting colour anyway, decided to go white.

When I was sixty-three, Julian and I decided to close our business and retire to the seaside. We live a ten minute walk from the beach (downhill) and a five minute walk from a shop or two or fifteen minutes from more shops. We chose this house because we really liked it, because there was room for our hand-made bookcases in the lounge and because, if there came a time when we couldn’t drive to the shops, we could at least walk for the bare essentials. I can still walk the five minutes to the nearby set of shops though it takes me ten minutes, nowadays, and I can walk to the beach, but coming home I take a bus to the end of the road.

Old age (and there’s no way around it, I am old) has brought with it little skin tags, warts, moles, annoying pains for no reason, arthritis in previously healthy joints, white hair, annoying wheezes, glasses (only for reading and sewing, though!), sore feet (which, mysteriously, have grown by a whole size!) and breathlessness BUT I am alive and have enjoyed almost every single thing that has happened to me (unlike my sister, Judy, who didn’t even get to forty-six).

Like all old people, I’ve seen a lot of my friends die before me – not all of them older than I am, though mostly – and I do think about dying (though not for a while yet, I hope!) The thought doesn’t really bother me much, nor does it scare me. I would rather live (in a reasonably healthy way) for another ten to twenty years during which I can carry on painting my weird paintings, feed the birds (mostly gulls and pigeons but with the occasional sparrow, blackbird and wren, even some goldfinches the other day!), do the occasional bit of weeding, pruning and picking, sit in the sun, eat great food, drink the occasional glass or two of dry white wine, watch a soap on telly, read some books, do the occasional jigsaw or word puzzle, go to the cinema, talk to friends and neighbours, sit on the beach, browse for something new to wear, and all the things people of any age like to do.

I would love to win the lottery so I could help Chloe buy a house in London and so that I could employ someone to do all the jobs I hate (cleaning, cooking, planning meals) but, I suppose it’s not likely to happen and I will have to wash the pans, clean the floor and vacuum sometimes – always remembering Quentin Crisp pointing out that after a few years, the dust on the furniture doesn’t get any worse!

Above,  another three of my weird paintings. They are all quite large (maybe 2′ x 2’6) and painted in the last six months or so. The top one doesn’t have a name, nor does the middle one. The third one is called, ‘Foraging’ as it looks, to me, like a strange being looking for food in a strange landscape. (Told you they are weird!)

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