Neighbours and Outsiders

It is often said that London is a series of villages. I’m not sure I buy that, but I would say it’s a series of neighbourhoods. Most people are very aware of and loyal to their neighbourhood. When I came to live in London people would talk about their manor. It’s not a term I’ve heard for a while, so I suspect that those a generation behind me would find it as quaint as I did expressions from the 1950s.

Celia, Octavia and I all live in the same neighbourhood. I couldn’t tell you exactly where our patch begins and ends, but two or three years ago Celia and I were walking in an adjoining neighbourhood when we spotted a notice for a book group. It was behind glass and the worse for wear from condensation. We peered at it, trying to decipher date, location and book. As we did so, a woman approached with a wide, friendly smile. Do join us, she said. We don’t live here, we answered, wary of trespassing on alien territory. We live up the road; we belong to a different tribe. Alright, we didn’t say the last bit, at least I don’t think we did, but I certainly thought it, despite knowing people from this other tribe. That doesn’t matter, said the woman, smile enhanced by a halo of blond curls. You’d be very welcome. Continue reading

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A Welcome to New and Old Friends

In the past few weeks a number of people have signed up to follow this blog. Thank-you, and welcome! Most of my new readers do not have blog pages or WordPress identities and do not comment – my silent readership. I admit I am intrigued at this new, at least to me, trend. I recognise one person, that’s you Judy – hi! – but no one else.

Some new followers do have pages, though I admit I haven’t checked most of them out. The truth is I am not just an undisciplined cook, I am am also an undisciplined blogger. I get the urge to post in bursts and not at all, and the same goes for my reading of blogs I follow, so you may find, as Pat, Ruth, IngridD, Nitzus, Nadbugs and Gilly for example will have learned, that my comments and likes equally come in bursts interspersed with long silences. Other blogs I read, like or not, but rarely comment on. That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t enjoy them. Continue reading

A Walk in Kent

Last night I finally got the last of the mud off my boots. They were caked. Kent is a county that has a reputation for being dry, but the first two fields we walked across were lakes of mud. There was no escape. I’m a mucky walker at the best of times, coming home with mud splattered trousers whatever the weather, but Saturday was pretty spectacular. The ground sucked at my heels so that each step was accompanied by a distinctive squelching sound.

I’d caught an earlier train out of London than planned and it was wonderfully quiet and empty.

Empty train

The fields we passed by were covered with frost, and the sun shone benevolently. The walk, a Pluckley Circular, was organised by the Ramblers and shared between two groups which meant there were nearly thirty of us when the walk began. But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’ve clicked on that wiki link you’ll have read Pluckley claims to be the most haunted place in the country. But how would you tell?

So I was at Pluckley station half an hour ahead of kick-off, though perhaps that should be step-off.

Station car park


The station has a legitimate claim to historical fame.

Sole survivor


An original


But it’s not actually in Pluckley. It’s a distance away from the village, over a mile. Here’s the pub that is beside the station, a pretty impressive pile, named for the Dering family who were landowners.

The pub at Dering

Dering Arms

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Better and Bigger than Trump

Lor’ love a duck, I have just read that Theresa May has again invited Donald Trump to these shores. I thought we were hard up, how on earth are we going to afford the security costs? It would be nice if he’d do the decent thing and stay at home, then maybe that money could be given to the NHS. Or maybe she’s planning to sell him the NHS and we’ll have Trump hospitals everywhere. Given Trump’s gung-ho attitude towards facts and knowledge that would probably mean anyone could get their hands on a scalpel and see if they could retire us when we need it. Lots of gold plating and no doctors, no nurses, no paramedics, but a director who claims he has the best wards, is the most medical person ever.

When I read that many people who voted for Trump still support him, call him one of them, cite economic growth pushing back ISIS as evidence of the effectiveness of his presidency. I went to see Darkest Hour yesterday, and it got me thinking about Hitler and how his rise to power was due largely to his promise to make Germany great again, how he appealed to people who had lost everything in the depression, who felt ground down and humiliated after the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler, like Trump, promised much, he had scapegoats, he painted a picture of a glorious Reich free from those who dragged it down – Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists. Women belonged in the home, cooking, bearing children who would fight for this Reich.

And let’s face it, at first he seemed to many in Germany to be delivering the goods. Here in the UK he had his admirers too. The Daily Mail and the Daily Express gave him their approval. The abdicated Edward VIII visited the fuhrer.
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Stonking Good Television, Stonking Good Drama

There have been some stonking good drama series on television in the last few months. While I was in Northern Ireland Cousin introduced me to Love, Lives and Records. Over Christmas I caught up on the episodes I’d missed. It was just great and has helped me accept the fact that The Detectorists has come to a definite end after three wonderful series. Then last night Derry Girls began. Heaven.

On the face of it the three drama series have nothing in common. Love, Lives and Records is set in a registrars’ office in Leeds; The Detectorists is about two blokes who are keen members of an amateur metal detecting group; Derry Girls is about a group of teenagers growing up in Derry City in the 90s. But like all good dramas they take a group of people in particular situations and explore universal truths. They are gentle yet challenging; the characters become people you care about very quickly. They are flawed, silly, wise, troubled, funny. Continue reading

Make Mine a Lemsip

The rain is lashing down. It’s ferocious, like an angry percussion section. The wind part of the weather orchestra is sending eerie whistles through slightly open windows and helping the rain create little scudding crescendos. I’m supposed to be on a train to spend the day with a friend on the Essex coast to walk and talk along the seashore, share some seasonal food and wine. Instead I’m in bed.

It’s not just the weather that has made me decide to stay in my pyjamas for the time being. On Christmas Eve I went out for a walk and realised I wasn’t feeling my usual happy self. Normally walking does a magical thing of connecting body and spirit for me. I love the way my limbs find their rhythm, breathing follows the same tune, eyes and ears absorb familiar and new sights. So when I found I was having to push myself along I examined my constituent parts and found a cold lurking. Continue reading

Intrepid

I’m on the bus. It’s taken a while. Cousin dropped me just before half past ten and I walked gingerly across the ice in the car park, sliding alarmingly at one point, to the safety of the bus shelter. At 10.31 I sent a text to Fiona of memineandotherbits.wordpress.com. We planned to meet today. Five minutes later a bus came into view. We moved forward expectantly only to fall back as he drove by, holding up five fingers which we interpreted as meaning another bus would be along shortly. Ten minutes passed and I sent Fiona another text. When the second bus came by without stopping and no hand signal promising future transport I zipped up my coat and began to rethink my plans. Continue reading

Imagine

Although I bought my copy of today’s Guardian shortly after breakfast, I didn’t look at more than the headlines until late afternoon. I was working, outside, on what must have been the coldest day this autumn, wrapped in warm layers, particularly blessing my thermal vest. Afterwards I went for lunch with a  friend in a blissfully warm and unassuming Italian cafe near Borough High Street,  away from the end that attracts visitors in their thousands these days. I could go on about how much Borough has changed in the time of my south London tenure, but I’ll leave that for another time and space.

At home, and after playing with MasterB and feeding him, I reached for the paper. For those of you unfamiliar with Saturday’s Guardian I should perhaps explain it has a number of sections. The main news section today was bulky, but I have found the news this week so profoundly depressing, and the attack on the mosque in Egypt so awful, I couldn’t bear to start there. As is my habit I flicked through the sports section to see if there were any pieces about women’s sports. The Guardian is a liberal paper, it’s right on about so many many things, but does not seem to comprehend that  its sports section caters almost exclusively for admirers of male athletes. You could be forgiven when you look at it for thinking that women have yet to hitch up their skirts and play tennis, and that there are no women to be lauded and  admired for their sporting achievements outside the four yearly fest that is the Olympics. Today one story about women’s football. But the lack of reporting on women’s sport is another subject for a different day.

The Family section which I always make a beeline for failed to thrill; I flicked through the magazine noting several long articles I shall read in a day or two. The food section has some nice lentil recipes I am extremely unlikely to make, so that’s now en route to my neighbour Jolita. Nothing in the travel section grabbed me, and I always keep the Review until last – apart from the crossword which I messed up almost immediately. Continue reading

Six Weeks Until Christmas

Six week until Christmas; unbelievable.  I have written a list of cards I need to send. I’m going to Northern Ireland for a week at the start of December, so I think it’d be a good idea to get at least some cards written before I go. The price of stamps is a major incentive to cull the list, but it still seems very long. I have put the letter e by a number of names, meaning I shall send e-cards. Another group come under the delivered-by-hand option, but since the Post office  has been privatised I am less and less keen to boost the bank accounts of share holders.

But at times like these it’s also important to keep in touch, to remember our shared humanity, our overseas friendships, to write a line or two to people who we like but seldom see. The most dystopian forecaster probably wouldn’t have come up with the past twenty-four months. Refugees continue to arrive traumatised and exhausted in leaky boats meant for far fewer people on far shorter journeys. Reports of attempted genocide, with footage for proof flood our screens when we watch the news. Allegations of sexual abuse, of men  using superior power to manipulate and control women in the film industry fill acres of newspapers. Continue reading