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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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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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.


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 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 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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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.


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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Those of you who have read my post about the Market Cross ghost know that I am not worried by ghosts at all, never having seen or been bothered by one, except for those two times when there were objects flying around the bathroom, and that was totally inexplicable.

One night, not very long ago, I was close to falling asleep when I realised that the bed, or rather, the mattress and duvet, were moving in a strange way. I will stop telling the tale for a moment while I explain a few things and set the scene.

Eight and a bit years ago I had my knees replaced, one at a time, six months apart. At that time, Julian had a part-time job which meant that he got up at 5 in the morning. Recovering from the ops meant I didn’t sleep well as I couldn’t lie on either side but only on my back which I don’t normally do and which makes me uncomfortable. With Julian going to bed early and getting up super-early and my not sleeping well, plus the fact that Rosie used to sleep on our bed with us (I know, I shouldn’t allow it!), eventually I moved into the smaller room next to our bedroom where there was a single bed and where I could sit up reading or listen to music without disturbing Julian. But, instead of sharing a king-size bed with Jules, Rosie insisted (!) on sleeping in a single bed with me. So, I moved into one of our two guest rooms – the one where there is a nice French double bed.

After I had recovered from my knee ops and Julian had retired from his job, I decided to stay where I was, in the guest room, after all, I was seventy-ish by then and, anyway, it was nice not to have to prod Julian in the side two or three times a night to stop him snoring! Also, the bed being a double meant that Rosie had her side and I had mine!

Back to the story: The mattress and duvet were moving. Rosie had died some months before, so it wasn’t her making the bed move and I was pretty certain it wasn’t me. I lay quite still, in order to try to understand what was happening. I was on my side, facing the windows, and I could feel the duvet being pulled sideways, very gently over my legs. At the same time the mattress was very subtly moving — I could hear, through the pillow, a spring or two moving occasionally. The longer I lay there, without moving, the longer the strange movements went on. Silently and lying very still, I went through all sorts of ideas in my head.

“Could Julian be playing some sort of trick on me? No, Julian doesn’t do things like that. Could it be thieves in the house playing a trick on me? Don’t be stupid!”

And I suddenly realised that what I was feeling was very similar to how it felt after Rosie had made herself comfortable on the bed. (When she got on the bed, she used to ‘flop’ down, causing the entire mattress to bounce once or twice, as she weighed several stone.)

And I thought, “OMG, it’s Rosie’s ghost!”

After a little while I turned to face the other direction and there was, of course, nothing there.

Last night I fell asleep after a long day. At about 2am I suddenly woke up to that same subtle movement of the bed, only this time, the movement — the slightest, most delicate, movement of the duvet — was over my ankles and feet. I lay there, at first trying to work out what had woken me and then to question the feelings around my feet and finally to think, “Could it be Rosie’s ghost?” If it is, I guess she misses me as much as I miss her!


My sweet Rosie

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Back in the seventies, Pam Ayres wrote a ditty about her teeth and how she wished that she had looked after them properly. That little ‘poem’ struck a chord with many, many people, I imagine, and I was definitely one of them!

I was born in 1943. Dentistry, while not in its infancy, was – compared to today – still in its toddler-hood. As I have intimated before, my mother was not exactly ready for motherhood and, before I had many teeth (maybe six?), I had a baby sister. Childcare was not my mother’s strong point and, though I’m sure each of us had a toothbrush, I’m not entirely sure she helped us to use it, nor did she nag us to use it, even when we were older. (Though she did have the terrible habit of asking us loudly, even when we were adults, “Have you brushed your teeth today,” just as you were going into a shop or – this is true – getting into a cab to go to one’s own wedding!)

So, my sisters and I didn’t grow up with the most hygienic ideas and rules and achieved our twenties with a lot of fillings between us. Our first dentist was one of our grown-up cousins (at least that’s what we were told although I can’t see any family connections when looking at a family-tree). He was older than our mother, most likely in the generation above hers, and he had his dentist office (dental surgery for my British readers) in downtown Zanesville, not far from my great-grandmother’s wonderful house.

My first visits to the dentist must have been traumatic because I can still remember the noise and feel of that gigantic drill he used and the taste and smell of the bits of tooth left in my mouth afterwards.

Speed forward to the 1960’s:

I don’t remember visiting a dentist again until we had moved to London. That’s not because we didn’t have treatments (we must have, judging by the number of fillings in my mouth) but they obviously were not memorable and I have put them and the anxiety they must have caused, out of my mind. In fact I barely remember visiting a dentist until the mid to late sixties. Then it got bad! We lived in Chiswick from around 1965 and I can remember, vividly, having a terrible toothache. I found a dentist just a short walk away, in the High Road, and walked into his ‘torture chamber’, certain that there would be five or six holes needing filling. That dentist checked my entire mouth then told me that he would not be able to do that amount of work on the National Health! He said, “There are three, maybe four, to be removed and eleven teeth needing filling and the National Health will not pay me for doing such a lot of work. I can, however, do the work privately.”


I made an excuse and left without treatment (we were not at all well off at the time and couldn’t afford to have private dentistry). I managed my toothache with oil of cloves until I had, obviously, convinced that tooth it didn’t hurt any longer! In fact, I didn’t go to a dentist for several years until that same cavity redoubled its efforts and the oil of cloves had no effect. I went to a dental practice in Goldhawk Road (a bus ride from my house in Chiswick) and found,there, an ethical dentist who pulled that one tooth and filled six more, all on the National Health. He was horrified to hear my story of the unethical dentist in Chiswick, who had actually closed his practice during those two years. This was the first dentist (an Australian, as it happens) who worked so painlessly that I determined to go to the dentist regularly. My determination lasted for a year or so and then petered out as life got hectic.

During the following years, British dentists realised that their patients were often scared, anxious or even terrified and started working on their ‘bedside manner’. Dental schools and dental tools were upgraded, thankfully! The injections, which helped dull or remove the pain during dental work, were given via much slimmer needles; the drills became much faster and cooler and there was the ‘sucker’ that took away excess saliva and old bits of tooth and filling. None of this made a difference to my sister, Judy, though.

She had to have a couple of teeth out and arranged with a surgery in Ravenscourt Park to have the work done under a general anaesthetic as she hated the novocaine injections. To have this done, she needed me to take and collect her, so ‘Veronica’ and I accompanied her in my old Cambridge A55 and waited outside while she went in for the work. We waited and waited…..and waited but she didn’t come out. An hour and a half went by and, finally, I went up the stairs to the receptionist to ask about Judy. The receptionist said that Judy was resting as she had fainted just as they were going to give her the anaesthetic and that she couldn’t have the work done that day! Eventually, Judy joined us and we all went home. I imagine she had the work done another day but don’t remember any further upsets.

Speaking of ‘Veronica’, when she was about eighteen months old she fell against a coffee table and knocked one of her front baby teeth out. We waited some years and, finally, the adult tooth appeared. One day she had an upset stomach and was being sick. She leaned over the toilet and, at the same moment, I lifted the seat so she wouldn’t be sick on it, and knocked her tooth out! She has hardly forgiven me for that, and I can’t really blame her!

Now that I am an old woman I look after my teeth really well! I brush, I floss, I visit the dentist twice a year and still have a surprising number of my own teeth still in use. Not many years ago I debated getting a ‘plate’ so that I have less chance of getting to a point where I can’t chew with my back teeth. On one side the top back tooth has nothing to grind against which means I have to chew on the other side. The top back tooth on the chewing side was damaged badly (and painfully) when I bit down on one of those little silver balls that was decorating a Christmas cookie which I had bought at Ashford station on my way home after visiting Patty in her old folks’ home. I was sure nothing could be done to save it but I was wrong! Where the remains would just have been yanked out forty years ago, the dentist I was seeing at the time worked exceedingly hard to make me a crown to replace it.

It wasn’t long before Christmas and he made a temporary crown to take me over the holiday, leaving the dreaded root canal work until the holiday was finished. When I went back to have the temporary crown removed and the rest of the work done, he found that it was on so strongly that it couldn’t be removed (and he really tried for quite a while to remove it!) So, he left the temporary on and drilled through it to do the root canal work and I still have the same one!


I had to change dentists a couple of years ago and went to the one Julian uses. He is, I believe (from his accent) a South African and he knows how to treat nervous patients – (Julian was a much more nervous patient than I!) The new dentist is very impressed by my ‘temporary’ crown but has given me an even more impressive filling! For years the back tooth (below the temp crown) was a gorgeous gold (crown) and when it needed to be removed was replaced by a more mundane ‘white’ but it needed to be replaced about two years ago. There was very little tooth for it to be attached to but, miracle-worker that he is, he made a filling that did the job. Then, three weeks ago, I was eating my Sunday dinner when part of the filling fell out. Eating and drinking didn’t cause any pain so I wasn’t too worried but the edge of the tooth was sharp and kept annoying the side of my tongue so I went to see my ‘new’ dentist. He was pleased to see that it was only a little bit of the original filling and it was easy to replace it. I was more than pleased! No drilling, no injection, no pain and, when he had finished, no catching on my tongue, either.

I recently saw in a news report that scientists are working on cell stimulating medications that can trick teeth into repairing themselves or even growing again!!! I do hope, for the younger generations’ sake, that this can be done in a safe and cheap way. It’s really too late for my teeth, far too late for those people who have mouths full of dentures, I imagine, but not too late for my beautiful grand daughter who, as it happens has no fillings yet and is nearly 23 years old! She has no memories of huge (pneumatic) drills taking up every bit of space in her mouth and drilling down as far as her chin; no memories of gigantic hypodermic needles approaching her mouth and tearing into her gums (or even worse, the roof of her mouth!); only memories of a nice white office where some fairly disgusting but rapidly disappearing paste was spread over her teeth leading to no fillings.

I realise I’ve been fairly lucky with my teeth, that other people have had much worse problems, and I am thankful for that. But, generally, for most of the population, there is no other part of the body that has to be worked on, sometimes with pain and certainly with anxiety and I hope that in the near future, these scientific miracles happen and teeth cause no more problems than a scraped kneeor broken finger-nail.

(While these aren’t real dental tools, they certainly look like they are. I used them when making jigsaw puzzle pieces from a resin.)

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