Archive | April 2022

Two of my favourite things.

Spring has come round again, glory be. Tadpoles in the pond, cherry and apple blossom on the fruit trees, my lovely flowering cherry in the front garden to lift everybody’s spirits and hanging from the branches at every turn and one of my favourite poems ‘Loveliest of Trees’ by A.E. Houseman.

Cheers everybody!

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Lottie has taken this rather special shot of our favourite tree, to show you all how close we are to it when we’re at work. The little bow window to the left of the picture is the window to our study, where all the work is done and where we now wander away from the desk from time to time to be fed by the cherry tree.

Simcha to all of you!

This entry was posted on April 29, 2022. 1 Comment

Being catty.

This morning Lottie and I have devoted our time to a consideration of the peculiarity of the charms of cats. Or to put it another way, we’ve been editing a book about a particular cat that I’d written in 2014 and which we’re hoping to put on the market sometime after July – ready for Christmas!

I am, as some of you have noticed, an idiotically besotted companion of cats. Over the years I’ve learnt my place and having studied the language at considerable length, can now speak fairly fluent cat. So fluent in fact that in this book I have actually dared to get inside the head of a particular cat and record his thoughts. Yes, yes, I know it’s asking for trouble! But I couldn’t resist it.

I’ve gone so far down this dangerous road that I can’t turn back. But just to be on the safe side, we allowed Dixie to sit in with us while we were editing the first half of the manuscript, so that we could get his opinion. He gave it, as you can see with his usual disarming honesty!

This morning I’m going to confess to a vicious dream.

So if you have always thought that by and large I was probably quite a nice person, look away!

When I was quite deep asleep last night, I dreamt that I was a judge, in full wig and gown and that the person up before me for judgement was Boris Johnson, accused of lying to the house and the nation. I had a lovely time in that dream, because it was perfectly possible for me to punish him as I saw fit.

I adjusted my wig and sentenced him to two weeks in the stocks, wearing nothing but a pair of underpants and out in a very public area where people could get to him at any hour of the day or night and sling abuse, rubbish, pots full of piddle and whatever else they fancied, all over him.

You see, if you put a wig on my head, I can get very vindictive!

I woke feeling pleased with myself at a job well done.

Oh dear, oh dear! Is this really who I am?!

This entry was posted on April 14, 2022. 7 Comments

TV interview with a difference

Yesterday morning, I was visited by two youngsters from a television company, who had arranged to interview me about what it was like to live through The Great Smog. I said yes, because I had lived through the great smog and remembered it vividly, but what a paraphernalia it turned out to be!

The only other time I’ve been interviewed by a television company was when it was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS and the company was the BBC and there were three people in the small group who interviewed me, all of whom were very, very professional. A producer, an interviewer and a cameraman who arrived with his camera on his shoulders, filmed whatever he was asked to film and left with his camera still on his shoulders. It was a very impressive interview.

Yesterday’s group were two in number, a cameraman and an interviewer, both young and friendly, which I found delightful but they chose to interview me in my study, planted me in the armchair and decided to film in the space by the entry. Then they began to make preparations. I have never seen so many pieces of equipment gathered together in one small space in my life. One tripod after another were set up and planted in whatever place were available. The cameraman squeezed between bits of complicated equipment bearing in one piece after another. I fully expected him to get his long legs entangled in the tripod’s legs and fall to the ground and it seemed to take him an interminably long time. Even the cat took off and left us to it!

But the questioning did finally begin and it revealed a gulf of understanding between us that I hadn’t expected.

For a start neither of my interviewers had the faintest idea of how humans and clothes were washed in 1952. The girl asked me whether I’d had a bath and washed my clothes when I got home from my day out in the smog, fully expecting the answer ‘yes’. And when I said ‘of course not,’ she looked surprised, so I told her how baths were rationed and we were only allowed one a week and only 9 inches of water in the bathtub and how clothes were only washed on washday, which was always a Monday and involved boiling everything in a copper. I think she found it a bit shocking, but I didn’t comment because we were historic lightyears away from one another. I sat in my chair remembering what hard work it was to run all the washing through the mangle and how the walls in the scullery were running with water by the time the job was all done.

But the final and extraordinary question was when she pressed me to tell her that I’d been frightened during the smog and when I said ‘no of course not, there was nothing to be frightened of,’ she looked so disappointed that I thought I better tell her something really frightening. I pointed out that in 1940 those of us who lived in London during the Blitz, had been bombed every night for ten months and that, that was something to be frightened of and she was surprised and shocked, but I think she took it on board.

It will be interesting to see what they make of it when it is finally released. But I have to say I have never felt the generation gap so keenly as I did yesterday morning.

Life is very peculiar sometimes.

This entry was posted on April 8, 2022. 3 Comments

Spring comes round regardless of the clock.

And here it is again. As delectable as ever. I’m kicking off with a poem which is a favourite of mine and which I hope it is as pertinent today as it was on the day it was written.

The giddy blossom fluttering on the bough
Is fragile and ephemeral. And yet
Those careless frills, this frivolous display,
These dancing dresses guard the hidden seed,
The life in the inner womb, the close kept cell.

A new hatched chicken staggers from the egg
Damply ridiculous, yet swiftly dries
To a delicious puff-ball of delight
Whose fluffy softness hides the brittle bone,
And may deter a hungry predator.

The slithery kitten with its tight shut eyes,
Its questing mouth, its screwed up anguished face.
Swims into life far tougher than we know.
His silk is strength, his mew an incantation,
A call for help that may not be denied.

For youth is magic, its seductive charm
Protective in a world too geared to harm
The gentle, the delightful and the small.
Without its spell there’d be no life at all
Since fantasy allows the human brute
To tear the blossom as he eats the fruit.

And then just for the hell of it, here is the old Brooklyn poem which I’ve loved and enjoyed since I was a small child.

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz
I wonder where the boidies is
They say the boid is on the wing
But that’s absoid, the wing is on the boid!

And oh, what wings they are. I’m putting three more of my favourites up now. They’re delicious at any time of the year, but particularly so now.