It’s 1961, the autumn, and instead of going back to Central High School at Bushy Park for my senior year, Judy, Jennie and I went off to Hammersmith to attend Mrs. Hugh-Jones Tutorial Establishment.

We had decided to stay in London for the foreseeable future and that meant doing O and A levels and going to an English university. Mrs. Hugh-Jones ‘school’ was a place where we could try to ‘catch up’ enough to attempt O levels. (These were exams taken at the age of 16 after about five years of secondary education – now called GCSE’s). Unsurprisingly, my education wasn’t up to the standard of O levels so I concentrated on English and French, with a bit of History and Geography thrown in but no maths or science.

At that establishment I met my first English best friend, Shaun. She and I were opposites in many respects – she was tall, I was short; she was bosomy, I was flat-chested; she was loud and out-going where I was quiet and rather introverted; we made perfect friends! Judy wasn’t too keen on Shaun to begin with. One day as we walked to the bus-stop, I introduced Judy to Shaun as ‘my sister’. Shaun asked, “What’s your name?” and Judy replied in a loud and gruff voice, “Fred.”

Shaun and I went through many troubled times together, then there were some periods of time where we lost touch, then we’d pick up where we left off, only to lose touch after some months or years when my life took me in one direction and Shaun’s took her in another. (For a description of Mrs. Hugh-Jones Tutorial Establishment and a little more about Shaun, see my blog post, Where Does SHE Come From (part 4))

Apart from Shaun, I had few girl friends until 1964 when I was pregnant so I’ll tell you about some of the ‘boys’ who were my friends.

Judy and I met brothers, Nigel and Paul when I was around seventeen. Nigel was slightly younger than I was but that didn’t put me off. Paul was older by a couple of years and both Judy and Jennie quite fancied him but they were far too young for him. We all went round as a group which also included Shaun and a young American boy called Happy. As often happens, I lost contact with Shaun, Nigel, Paul and Happy but am pleased to say that through such sites as Friends Reunited and Facebook, i was able to find these long lost friends. Of the four of them, two have died and one, Happy, lives in America. Nigel and I email each other once or twice a year and have met up occasionally.

[When it was Nigel’s 70th birthday, he had a party and invited all his old friends. Jennie and I made the trek across London and, coming out of the train station, met Happy and his wife, Becky who had made a much longer trek, all the way from Virginia! There were many people there I didn’t know and only a few whom I knew. Paul was missing, having died some years earlier, but his daughter was there and it was lovely to talk to her.]

After I left Mrs Hugh-Jones establishment, I went to an A level college. By that time I had met a young man who lived in the same block of flats, called Roger. We spent lots of time together and fell in love. We got engaged and were happy – but his mum wasn’t too keen. She must have cheered when I broke off my engagement some months later after I met a young man called Tim and fell head-over-heels for him.

Tim was intelligent and witty and reasonable looking. He and I went out for some months and when we couldn’t see each other, we wrote to each other. He lived with his mum, dad and brother in a small village in Kent called Wateringbury. (Years later, and not connected in any way with Tim, Julian and I went to the house that Tim had lived in to chat to the owner about furniture restoration.)

Tim and I went to Bath for a three or four day holiday. We both went to the same hotel but signed in at different times and had separate rooms – in those days it would have been totally frowned upon for a young unmarried couple to spend the night together! One or other of us would wait for an hour or two after ‘going to bed’, then sneak to the other’s room. Despite all the late-night sneaking about, we really enjoyed our holiday.

Tim’s mum had a lovely garden in which she grew the most beautiful sweet-peas. She would always give me armfuls of flowers to take home when I had visited from London.

After about a year, Tim broke up with me, having been lured away by a more glamorous woman and it broke my heart. It took me a fair while to get over that break-up but, eventually, I recovered.

During the summer after the break-up I went out with my friend, Chris whom I had met at college. We would meet in Sloane Square, near to the hotel he was working in, and go to “World’s End” at the far end of the King’s Road in Chelsea. There we had found a club we could go into for very little, or maybe nothing, and we could dance. (Surprisingly, in the London of 1961 it was almost impossible to find a place to dance to recorded music if you didn’t have deep pockets!)

End of Part Two!

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There has been a bereavement in the family and we have been very busy, first tending to the ill person then trying (sometimes not very well) to sort through the forty-plus years of accumulation that is in a house which must be sold for probate.

I hope I’ll be back, some time after the funeral next week, of a dearly-loved member of the family.

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Judy, centre, with two of the neighbourhood kids.

Lots of you readers will have friends that you’ve known all your life. If you are still in the same country you were born in, if you live in the same area, if you went to the same primary school for six or so years, the same secondary for five or six years and, maybe the same college for three or more years, you probably have old friends.

As you may have read in my earlier posts, we moved around a lot when we were growing up. I think I went to somewhere between six and ten schools from the age of four to seventeen then to an A-level college for two years. We moved from Zanesville to Cincinnati, then went on our ‘divorce trip’ out west, back to Zanesville, then to Columbus, back to Cincinnati and then to London by the time I was fifteen. All that moving meant that I lost contact with almost every childhood friend.

When we were whisked to London we hadn’t any time to say farewell to the friends we had at school in the year or so before leaving. I did keep in touch with one or two but eventually even those fell by the wayside and most had no idea what happened to us. One of the people I kept in contact with was called Bob. He and I might have become girlfriend and boyfriend if I hadn’t left but we exchanged the occasional letter for four or five years. He joined the Marines in the early sixties and was learning to speak Vietnamese. I have always assumed that he must have been one of the many casualties in that disastrous war.

Occasionally I looked at Friends Reunited (when it existed) and have looked at alumnus sites of the various schools I attended, as well as Facebook. I was surprised and delighted when I found my best friend in the eighth grade, Sylvia, but when I wrote to her, her reply made it clear that she wasn’t interested in renewing our acquaintance – which is a pity, but understandable.

I often wonder what happened to the boys and girls I remember from my days at school in America, some of whom are pictured in anonymous photos I took and forgot to write names on. I have several photos of neighbourhood friends whom I remember very well from my life in America. In one I appear with my sister, Judy, and Barry, Billy and Dave. We are all so young and smiling not knowing at all what would become of us. In this photo, which was probably taken in 1957, we are posed in my grandmother’s garden. I was about fourteen, Judy would have been thirteen and the boys about fifteen. I know that Judy has died at way too young an age but I don’t know what became of Billy or Dave.

Barry was the boy that I ‘went out’ with. In those days life was very innocent – or at least I was. ‘Going out’ with Barry meant being in a group of friends but holding hands with Barry; writing letters to Barry when I lived in Cincinnati and he was in Zanesville and kissing each other with closed mouths (which was very daring!). Several times Judy and I sneaked out of our grandmother’s house where we were staying, either late at night or early in the morning. If it was midnight or so, the group of us,plus a boy called Bert, Judy’s beau, would wander the streets, then find a place to sit and smoke cigarettes. If it was early morning we would be going on Barry’s ‘paper round’ with him. That was the only time in my life I have willingly got up early!

I did find out, via reading old Zanesville newspapers, that Barry subsequently married a school friend of mine called Lee. They divorced not many years later. (I have just found a site which tells me that Barry died on the 1st of November, 2013.)

Candy, Judy, Barry, Billy and Dave circa 1957

In London we went to the American schools at Bushy Park USAF base with boys and girls who had probably been to almost as many schools as Judy, Jennie and I – they were mostly the sons and daughters of air force and naval personnel as well as a few from diplomatic families. There is a monthly emailed magazine produced by people who attended Central High School and it is full of articles from others who attended. Occasionally I see a name I recognise but there are so many who are never mentioned – Dan and Mike Katz, whose father was a professor (?) and who came from East Lansing, Michigan; Dennis McGrath, whose family were sent by the Air Force to Turkey; Eddie Noce, who was a year older than I was and who, with a group of his friends, rode the same bus as we did and who kept us amused with funny stories; a boy and his sister whom I won’t name as he is some big Admiral in the Navy and wants nothing to do with his old school friends and so many others whose names I barely remember. I wonder how many of them went off to the war in the 60’s and how many came back.

End of Part One

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FOOD, GOOD AND BAD MEMORIES (thanks Alan and Val!)

When I was a youngster in America, we weren’t particularly well-off. I don’t remember much of the food my mother cooked for us though she must have had a range of items. She wasn’t a stay-at-home mum as she was studying to become an architect from about 1951 onwards but I do remember a few of the items, mainly those that I disliked!

Chipped beef. Does it still exist in the US? We possibly had it (on toast) several times a month. For those of you who are not in the know about chipped beef, it came as thin slivers of dried beef in a packet. Our mother would make a sauce, or buy one, perhaps, to which she would add the chipped beef pieces and heat the whole thing through. I ate it because I was hungry but it was never something I liked.

Vegetables were always tinned or frozen, never fresh, in our house, though I do remember as a small child going out in the car with my great-grandmother’s carer and cousin, Herminnie, for a drive into the country to a pea-farm’ on the odd Sunday afternoon and buying fresh peas in their pods. I don’t know if we were ever given any or whether we went home, ‘pea-less’.

Although peas, beans, spinach, corn etc were always frozen or tinned in my mother’s house, we did have fresh onions and potatoes. The onions would be used in things like a spaghetti sauce (a type of bolognaise sauce without the fancy name) and the potatoes would be boiled, baked or mashed – we never had chips (french fries) at home but looked upon them as a special treat for when we went to the local Big Boy drive in.

There were several vegetables that my mother would serve from tins and which I found disgusting – namely okra. I don’t know what it was about those little chunks of green though nowadays I still find it revolting because of the slime inside the fresh okra finger. We had beets, in those days, from a tin and warmed up. Nowadays, in the UK, I would never think of having hot beetroot on the dinner plate. I believe we also had asparagus from a tin and it wasn’t until about ten years ago that I discovered the delights of fresh asparagus!

Other tinned foods I wasn’t too keen on were spaghetti in tomato sauce and chicken noodle soup. I think that was because the pasta (an unknown word in 1950’s Cincinnati) was lying for days, weeks or months in a bath of either tomato sauce or chicken broth and so lost any ‘bite’. (I didn’t know the name or concept of ‘al dente’ but just knew soft noodles that could be ‘gummed’ rather than bitten, just weren’t right!)

Baked beans. I never had baked beans straight from the tin in America! Our mother always fried some onions and added the baked beans to the skillet (frying pan) with a spoonful of brown sugar and a bit of vinegar. Those, I liked! Today I can take or leave baked beans from the tin and certainly can’t be bothered to make the dish my mother made. (I doubt if Julian would like them as much as he likes baked beans, cold and straight from the tin!)

About three or four times a year we would go to my grandmother’s house for a week or so – and in the years before that, to my great grandmother’s). There we would be served wonderful exotic (to us) foods, like roast lamb, twice baked potatoes with cheese and even, once in a while, roast beef. Any left-over meat would be ground up and made into a sandwich spread with finely chopped onion and mayonnaise for the next day and spread thickly onto soft white bread.

At my great-grandmother’s house we often had Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner with all the family round her huge dining table. The turkey was always wonderful with plenty of stuffing and, as a side dish, always mashed sweet potatoes which had been cooked by putting it into the oven with a covering of white (never pink!) marshmallows. I know that Brits think this would be disgusting, but it wasn’t.

One more thing (I’ve got to cook dinner in a mo!). Chocolate fudge. Herminnie (see above) was a very large lady who quite obviously liked her food. Once in a while she would go into my great-grandmother’s huge kitchen and make a pan full of chocolate fudge. The bit I remember about those special times was when she would take a little spoonful of the molten mixture and drop it into a teacup of cold water. This would tell her whether it was ready to be poured out onto a buttered plate. I never understood the process until I was a grown-up, in those now long ago days when I made jam and more lately, when I, too, made chocolate fudge. Nowadays, if I were to feel it necessary for me to put on a few pounds (ha ha), I would make fudge and test its readiness using a sugar thermometer. I have a feeling that I haven’t actually made chocolate fudge since some time before we moved to Broadstairs but I might just make a plate full sometime soon! One thing to say about the fudge Herminnie, and I, made is that it’s not like English fudge. English fudge is soft and – dare I say – claggy (look it up, American readers); Herminnie and Candy fudge is (to me) indescribably better. It has a slightly hard surface underneath which is pure chocolate heaven!

My (rather nowadays unused) sugar thermometer

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HELP! What is lurking in my lawn?

At the beginning of November 2005 we brought Rosie home with us from The Dogs Trust. (See earlier post for more on Rosie). We used to go out into our enclosed back garden which had a big lawn and play with her, throwing balls for her to retrieve (she never liked that game) and just running and playing with her. Then it got a bit too cold to play in the garden (which is in the shade during the winter months) so we often took her to the beach, which she loved.

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Rosie – the first spring

The following spring we started playing in the garden again but it was quickly obvious that there was something wrong! Rosie no longer wanted to play on the lawn. She would go out to poo and wee but wouldn’t play. She loved running after her toys (not balls, though) in the house and I made it a point to have a game with her every day in the house as well as going to the beach. Rather unfortunately, the beach became a no-no if there were other dogs there as Rosie seemed to be very aggressive with them and eventually we had to give up taking her there.


Summer 2015 – complete garden make-over

In 2015 we gave our garden a complete make-over with raised beds, a ‘wildflower meadow’, a seating area and a much smaller lawn. The lawn itself was returfed and for a short while it seemed that whatever the problem had been, it had gone! But, sadly, not for long. Within a few weeks Rosie again refused to ‘play’ in the garden.

Come forward now to June, 2018. Rosie has been gone since March, 2017 and Lola has come to try to mend our broken hearts. She is small and sweet and *loves* to play on the lawn. She runs and chases her toys, sometimes bringing them back and sometimes taking them to another part of the garden.



2018 – a week or so ago with Lola’s toys all over the place

We were able to get good use of our garden but, SUDDENLY, a couple of weeks ago, that all stopped. I noticed that if I threw a ball for Lola she would chase it across the grass but come back atop the wall of a raised bed or via the seating area.Now she *might* go onto the grass for a moment or two but rush back to the raised verandah next to the house.

When we had Rosie I spent a load of time researching what could be the cause of her dislike of the lawn. There don’t seem to be chiggers here like there were in Ohio, though she did sometimes have raised itchy spots on her tummy. One vet thought she must be allergic to something in the garden but we couldn’t figure out what it could be. Now, it seems very unlikely that Lola, a totally different type of dog, would have the same allergy as Rosie but what else could it be?

NB: When we are out with Lola, and when we took Rosie out, both would walk on other grass quite happily.

Perhaps there is a botanist out there in blog world who has an idea or an entomologist who can give me a clue. We have a lovely garden which we enjoy sitting and working in but we want Lola to enjoy it too. Could it be an allergy and if so, to what? Could there be a little bug that likes biting dogs? (The cats next door often sat happily in the sun on our lawn – between losing Rosie and getting Lola)

If you know what it is or have an idea, please let me know. We would be so grateful, especially Lola!

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Friday the thirteenth (and Thursday the twelfth!)

Last week there were two important things happening. The most important (in a personal way) was my sister’s MA show at Camberwell Art College.

Camberwell Art College before some modernisation work

Wait, you say, what? You are seventy five and your sister is just doing an MA? Well, yes, she has spent the last two years becoming more accomplished in the art of printing. And, yes, she is quite old to do such a thing – but not as old as I am.

So. I planned to go to London late on Thursday afternoon so that I didn’t arrive at the show before about eight o’clock in the evening as it didn’t close until nine and then Jennie and I would be going back to her house. I arrived at St Pancras at around half past seven and walked through a maze of tunnels to the Victoria Line in Kings Cross underground station. For a youngster that walk would be easy; for a fit woman of sixty or seventy, it would be fine; for me that walk was exhausting! I arrived on the platform huffing and puffing and found a place to stand,

The ‘tube’ platform was hot and quite crowded but nothing like the tube train! I stood at the back end of a car (there were no seats nearby) next to an open window. It didn’t help to alleviate the heat and the noise (of the wheels and the air rushing past, I suppose) was dreadful.

Eventually, I arrived at Vauxhall tube station and easily found the bus ‘station’ (which, in this case, means the place where a load of buses stop then continue on their journey). I found the 36 but it was going the wrong direction – I had to get on the one behind. Again, I stood as all seats were taken and it was still very hot. As I didn’t know the bus route or how far I was travelling on that bus, I needed to get to the middle so that I could see the digital notices and hear which stop was coming next. (As an aside, this kind of thing wasn’t happening when I was younger and living in London and I missed my stop several times on unknown bus routes.) I made my way through the standing passengers and, after a few minutes, we stopped at a place where loads of people got off so I was able to get a seat.

The bus wended its way through the heavy traffic which was made up of other buses, cars, bicycles, motor bikes, lorries, pedestrians, dogs, and scooters. We passed the Oval where a cricket match must have been in ‘time-out’ or something because there were lots of people standing around inside having drinks and chatting. Oval interests me because Chloe and her partner moved to a flat in the area. Maybe I’ll go back that way for a visit sometime but I think I’ll wait till the weather is cooler.

We were in Camberwell when the bus stopped. In fact, most of the traffic stopped. A man had been hit by a motorbike just in front of the bus, a few moments earlier. A passing ambulance (the kind that take elderly out-patients to hospital and back) had stopped so that the driver could help the injured. The motorbike rider had hurt his leg or foot but was walking around, limping, but the man who was hit was lying motionless.

When things like this happen there is always someone who needs to see what was going on. There was a woman on the pavement walking her dog who stood and watched, there were a few younger people who had a glance and then hurriedly moved on and there was a woman on the bus who felt it was her duty to go to the front of the bus to have a look then to report her findings to anyone who was nearby and since, by then, I was sitting just behind her, I was the main recipient. I knew that she wasn’t going to get out and walk home, “because it’s everso far and I have my shopping.” I also found out that I couldn’t get out and walk because the college was even further than her home. She broadcast the fact that another ambulance hadn’t yet arrived, that the bus going to the right down another road was going to go down such and such a road as a detour, that blood was coming out of the hit man’s head, and that our bus wasn’t going anywhere. And then some of the cars and other traffic behind us started moving. They were waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic then going the wrong way round the traffic island up ahead and getting to the other side of the accident.

Our driver put on his ‘winkers’ and slowly pulled out into the traffic and we went past the man lying in the road and others who were there helping him. All the time we were given a running commentary and as we went past, I (being averse to bloody scenes except in novels) turned my head and looked out the other side of the bus.

Soon we arrived at the stop called Vestry Road, about half an hour later than we would have. I got off the bus and started the longish walk to the college. There were lots of young people sitting on the low walls in front of the building, chatting and looking very arty. I went to the front door – and was denied access to the show as they had stopped admitting people two minutes earlier! I told them my sister was waiting for me but to no avail so I rang Jennie and told her what was happening. She came to the front door but they wouldn’t let her out because she had a drink in her hand and they wouldn’t let me in because…. She was allowed to stick her head out to say she’d go back (up three flights), get her gear and come back as soon as she could. She sent her friend, Alma, out to stay with me and chat.

Apparently I had met Alma in 1983 at Jennie’s wedding. I’m afraid I didn’t remember her but we chatted anyway and Jennie came out. The three of us joined Jennie’s son and friends at a pub down the road, had a couple of glasses of wine and some pizza and went back to her house where I fell into bed and slept pretty well until eight on Friday, the 13th.

About nine, Jennie and I left her house and went to the bus stop (thankfully downhill all the way) and took a bus to the college. I had arranged for Chloe to meet me there so we could see the MA show together then go and have some brunch. She arrived not long after I did and we went in search of Jennie and her work. The college is in more than one building, joined in places by little bridges and we took a lift, went up and down stairs, crossed one of the bridges and finally found our way, thanks to a young man who was invigilating in another area.

Jennie’s work was interesting, colourful and thought-provoking. She won two prizes for her work and, obviously, now has a second MA in an art subject. (Brainy!) Some of the other artworks needed second or even third studies before I could begin to understand what they meant. We also went to the drawing/illustration show on another floor as Chloe is very interested in that aspect of art. (She wanted to study illustration at art college but was put off during her first year and instead is doing a degree in psychology. Nevertheless, she persists in drawing and some of her work is outstanding!) Then we went to the South London Gallery, next door, and had some food. (They do lovely waffles with fruit on top!)

I mentioned there were two important things happening. The second was the massive protests because (sorry/not sorry if I cause offence here) the ORANGE TURD was visiting the UK. I have never liked big crowds, I was hot, carrying my luggage, had sore feet and longed for home so I decided that Drumpf would never know I hadn’t been in the huge crowds and headed home by the slow route.

I arrived at Victoria station, bought a ticket, bought a sandwich, a bottle of water and a banana and boarded a train which took me on a sentimental journey through Bromley (where I first saw Julian without knowing it), Swanley (where I got out of a train once because I was having a panic attack and had to walk miles to find a phone to ring and ask Julian to pick me up), Borough Green (where I once, many years ago, tried to hitchhike with my then boyfriend, Tim, but gave up and took the train), West and East Malling (where I had lived in various houses for many years), Maidstone, (there’s not a lot I can say about the county town!), and on to Ashford where I changed to a train that would take me to Broadstairs. I got home about three in the afternoon, absolutely pooped!

Not sure about Julian, but Lola was very pleased to see me. We sat quietly for a while then played some ball catching games.

All in all Friday the thirteenth was a much better day for me and, I hope, for the man who was hit by a motorbike!

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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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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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