Friday 13th

I have been out and about a good deal this year, mainly work, but some treats including last night’s trip to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, and, at the other end of theatrical experience, to see Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams in Mary Stuart at the Almeida Islington. But more about them perhaps in another post.

Now I have a free day, am at home and the evidence of my comings and goings is all around me in unfolded clothes and unread newspapers. Of course I could put those unread papers straight into the recycling, but I have missed quite a lot of the news this week. Octavia filled my astonished ears last night with the Donald Trump/Meryl Streep story as we travelled home from the panto. So actually reading some of the papers this morning seemed a good reason to gather my strength and make a plan.

So I am a bit more up to date with what goodies are on the way in the arts, though I realise I have already missed some. I am hoping SSGB which I saw being filmed in Greenwich at the end of 2015 will be on when I am in Northern Ireland next month and I get to watch it with Cousin. I have flicked through the cookery supplements and consigned them to the scrap heap. The recipes look delicious, but the long list of ingredients for each one makes me tired before I start. In last Saturday’s Guardian magazine I found several gems. Clive James very much on form, quite like the old days; a restaurant review containing the words ‘the food is to subtlety what Trump is to interior decoration, but the effect is blinding’.

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First Anniversary

This Saturday will be the 14th January. I understand that on the other side of the pond the floss-haired one will be inaugurated as President of the United States, something that strikes me as a being a joke too far, as well as being a jolly disrespectful thing to do on the first anniversary of Aunt’s death.

Or so I thought, but Lyn has just emailed me to say it’s the 20th, not 14th, so goodness knows where I got that idea from.


Auntie Mary october 2015

Auntie Mary October 2015

I meet quite a few Americans through my work. I have yet to meet one who says (confesses?) s/he voted for Trump, which may be significant in itself as I am meeting those who travel away from their home country, and I know a large number of US citizens never acquire or use passports.

A woman today, I’ll call her Jane, told me she is returning on Saturday, and marching on Sunday as a Nasty Woman who is not going to be quiet. She won’t be alone; just her party comprises two busloads of similarly nasty women. She cheered my heart. Continue reading

Talking ‘Bout a Resolution

A New Year. Time for resolutions. So. Number one was decided back in Melbourne, to explore some of the South London suburbs on my doorstep. One of these days I plan to move, and as my own neighbourhood is fast becoming too expensive for me, these explorations may well inform where I live out the rest of my life. Some people love moving house. I don’t. If possible my next move will be my last. And when you consider I have lived at my current address for thirty years, that doesn’t seem impossible.

Number two: to find out when is the best time to visit New Zealand and where to enjoy extensive but not too demanding walking. I have been thinking of 2018 as my date for New Zealand, and now it is 2017 I could be booking a flight quite soon. Very exciting. Unless of course I decide to move house sooner rather than later, in which case NZ will probably have to wait. Encouragingly and excitingly my two friends in NZ have responded positively to my proto plans to visit their country.

Number three: I used to be a slim person. My hip bones preceded me into rooms. Now my belly does. I avoid mirrors, but some recent photographs have shown me I am twice the woman I was not so very long ago. So, and I am still undecided about this, shall it be WeightWatchers, or something else? Jeannette Winterson wrote so persuasively about fasting I am tempted to shell out for a week of starvation in the hope that I shall see the light and find it is not the one that comes on when I open the fridge door. So number three is something to do with health, and hopefully rediscovering my hip bones. Continue reading

Death and the New Year

There's a piece in today's paper describing 2016 as the Year of Death, especially the deaths of those who died too young. Admittedly Debbie Reynolds wasn't in the first flush of youth, but waking up to read that she had died just a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher, was shocking.

I saw Star Wars back in the day. I became aware of Carrie Fisher, but I can't say I followed her career. It is only in recent years when she has been a regular and extremely entertaining guest on Graham Norton's shows that I have taken any interest in her. She came across there as funny, self-aware, warm and almost unforgivingly honest. Graham Norton obviously loved her, and there was always a relaxed rapport between them.

The Year of Death began with Aunt, who died 14th January. In the same week Alan Rickman and David Bowie died. Both were people I admired, but it's fair to say it was Aunt's death that affected me, and continues to affect me, the most.

The other death that made the greatest impact on me was that of Jo Cox, murdered by a right wing extremist in the run up to the referendum. The reverberations of her death are still echoing, and will continue to echo as we go into 2017.

The referendum question was a simple one of stay or leave, but the far right immediately seized on it and hijacked the out vote as one for anti-immigration, nationalist policies. Shamefully, the Tory government in the shape of Theresa May, immediately responded by pursuing these lines, doing the work of the far right for them, making speeches that encourage disunity, saying people are right to fear immigrants accepting lower wages and thus taking 'their' jobs. (Surely it is the buying public wanting ever cheaper prices, and bosses seeking a labour market who will accept less pay that is to blame here.)

If I have followed the arguments correctly, the Tories are worried about UKIP's share of the vote, and are clothing themselves in these ugly arguments to retain power. In this they are supported by various newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch and the Daily Mail, a paper that continues to describe Jo Cox' murderer as a person with mental health issues, rather than the white supremacist he has been shown to be.

The Tories are playing a very dangerous game. This is appeasement. You give the far right a bit of what it wants, use its rhetoric, and think you can rein it in, contain it. Not so distant history shows this does not work. Having taken one bite out of democracy, the far right is unlikely to declare itself satisfied. It will come back for more and yet more. It will flex its muscles, strap on the metaphorical knuckle dusters, behave like a bullying colossus, all the while claiming it represents ordinary people. Continue reading

Christmas Gifts

No chimneys here chez Isobel and Cat, so no Father Christmas squeezing onto the hearth and covering the carpet with soot, scoffing a hot mince pie and drinking a glass of sherry, before leaving a stocking full of presents hanging from the non-existent mantelpiece. But there was still a number of packages to open.

Increasingly over recent years my friends and I have agreed to forgo the gift swapping and remove a large part of the stress in the run up to the Christmas period. Gifts we do exchange tend to be consumable, and the delicacies Maria sends me from Barcelona are very much part of my Christmas celebrations.

Anyway, the number of gifts waiting for my attention on Christmas Day was not large. Which is what made it so odd that I managed to miss one of them until this evening. It was from Octavia and wrapped in very groovy paper.

I picked it up, and as I took the paper off to reveal a brown cardboard box, and thought it was just the right sort of size to be a mug. Now mugs are something I have a lot of. I am rich in mugs. One thing I do not need is another mug.

It was a mug. Continue reading

Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve, the candles are lit, fairy lights twinkle, the choir of Westminster Abbey sings carols quietly in the background, the Christmas cards from friends and family deck the sideboard, tops of paintings, and book table, MasterB is paying misdirected carnal attentions towards his newest toy, a yellow feather boa that Octavia brought him from Melbourne.


Little Innocent

I know there’s a term for this, people who are turned on by inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags, which though odd and somewhat disturbing, is probably no less odd than people who develop phobias about inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags. How common a condition these lusts are in cats I don’t know, and why this toy should have sparked such desires in MasterB I have no idea.

I’m spending the evening at home, just me and MasterB. This morning was work, last night nibbles and drinks here with some neighbours. I should have asked more people, but the flat is small and there’s limited seating. Reinhild came before joining her husband at the theatre; my lovely neighbour Lawrence who broke the news to me that he is moving in a month; Charlie (Mr Celia); B&J: Celia a bit later.

Charlie’s arrival was the signal for MasterB to go into hiding. He’s accepted Lawrence, but is deeply suspicious of Charlie. J was bereft. I have a feeling my invitation was only accepted as she wanted to see Himself again. It is a humbling experience to be less socially successful than one’s cat. She tried coaxing him out with biscuits, no luck. Eventually I opened the drawer in which he had secreted himself under the bed and he hopped out. Little Star, he not only conquered his fear of Charlie, he actually rubbed his face against Charlie’s feet, and spent the rest of the evening with us.

December has passed in a blur, hence the lack of blog posts and comments. I finally downloaded my holiday pictures, and looking at them has brought details of my trip flooding back. I probably say “when I was in Australia..” annoyingly often, and I know I should like to return there. Equally I should like to return to Singapore.

Here and in the US, as well as other countries in the west, we are increasingly seeing the politics of division on the rise; there is much talk about our differences, less about our similarities. More in Common became a rallying cry in the wake of the murder of MP Jo Cox by a right wing extremist. In Singapore I saw diverse communities living together in harmony. As a white westerner I was just another ethnic minority, accepted and welcomed. When I looked online at reasons why the crime levels in Singapore are so low, I found articles citing the heavy penalties for anti social behaviour: ten year prison sentences for graffiti for example. The slip of paper handed me by immigration when I entered the country warned of the death penalty for drug smuggling. But it didn’t feel to me as though Singaporeans were only behaving because they feared the consequences of stepping out of line, and I reckon there must be more carrot than stick that makes this society work. People seemed to have a real pride in Singapore, they wanted me, a vistor, to feel welcome. When the rain poured down I was offered the shelter of an umbrella to cross the street; people smiled at me and I smiled back.

One of the things that caught my eye was the Art Connector, a series of seats celebrating fifty years of independence, and all quoting lines from the National Pledge which says, in the four official languages of Singapore; English Chinese, Malay and Tamil:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity
and progress for our nation.

The Art Connector

The Art Connector

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Ginger Ninja Calendars, Hurry While Stocks Last!

Can You Resist?

Can You Resist?

The last few copies of the Ginger Ninja 2017 calendar are for sale. These are limited edition calendars for cat cognoscenti, and feature my cat MasterB, aka the Ginger Ninja .

They cost £8.50 each, and come cellophane wrapped. I’ve added a contact form to my page to make it easier for you to order. Once I have your order, I’ll give you my PayPal account details and you can send me the money in pounds sterling. It couldn’t be simpler. Continue reading

Heathrow to Home

There is something about doing a journey in reverse that makes it feel as if you rewinding a holiday. Would I reach home to find November was just starting? In the event, no, but the reality of here, made there, which had been here the previous day, curiously unreal.

The plane had Christmas decorations, and Heathrow was full of festive decs too, if somewhat low on the festive cheer. After a bit of a battle to get into a lift to the bus station, I pulled on my gloves and zipped up my jacket against the cold of a London that had embraced winter in my absence.

The journey home was uneventful; bus, train, taxi. I lumbered up the stairs to my flat where no one was surprised to see me. The cat/flat sitters had been exchanging texts with me since I landed so were obviously expecting me, but MasterB seemed remarkably unphased by my reentry into his life. He was engrossed in a biscuit game with B, who could have an alternative career training cats.He gave me a nod, rubbed against me and resumed his game. It was a while before I got the nose rub, but it came. I know people who say their cats ignore them when they come home. That has never been my experience. Continue reading

The Penultimate Leg parts 2, 3 and 4.

One film, a meal and two hours in. I’m sticking with the French films, and coincidentally this one is set in Provence as well, just up the road from Marseille at Aix. Retour Chez Ma Mère was great. For starters, and this is almost all you need to know as a recommendation, it stars Josiane Balasko. Two of Marseille‘s actors were also in it, so it is telling me I am behind with French cinema’s current actors. Patou, if you are reading this, I’d happily see this film again on the big screen.

I should probably try for a snooze before I embark on my second film.


I started on a second French film, title already forgotten, but it included the word diable, and it quickly became apparent it was pretty hellish sexist crap. So, abandoned that and watched About a Boy. My snooze had not been very successful, and I hadn’t great expectations of this Nick Hornby offering starring Hugh Grant. Maybe I should just go the whole hog for the next few months and only see films starring Hugh Grant, because actually yet again, I really enjoyed it. Now fairly determined to wear myself out to the point where sleep was the only option, I continued my cinematic journey with Love and Friendship, and just for a change, starring Kate Beckinsdale rather than Hugh Grant. I seem to remember this bombed at the cinema. I can see why, though I should quickly clarify that having stuck with it, I did enjoy it. Beautifully filmed, it starts rather slowly, there are sumptuous exteriors and interiors, and the humour is subtle. At times it feels like it is being a bit too clever, and the assemblage of characters at the start with subtitled explanations of when they were, rather overwhelming.


I have steadfastly sat with my eyes closed under the eye mask, a fleece blanket wrapped round my knees, my headphones in place and dozed for around three hours. There may have been a few minutes of actual sleep in there somewhere, but not many. I should like someone to invent the following: an inflatable footstool that packs to a tiny size that I could put my feet on so that they are at about the same level as my hips; an airline seat in Economy class that allows one to sleep on one’s side without anything digging in. I did the long leg on my outward journey at night, and I think that helped me to sleep. I am fairly resigned now to feeling pretty ghastly by the time I land. Still, I am popping the Jet Zones every two hours in the hope of warding off the worst of jet lag, so fingers crossed.

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