Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ten Year Old Girls

And here we have Maud on her jumping pony. Do they look sweet together?
Maud is ten; she weighs six stone; she suffers from diabetes. She's just a little slip of a thing, she still takes a teddy to bed...
I jumped her pony this morning, the one in the picture above, the one she competes on in shows.
And I've had to completely review my opinion of my sweet little girl.
For the pony is as strong as an ox. And as stubborn as a mule. And he pulls like a train. And if you don't ride him exactly right, with loads of contact and loads of leg he simply will not jump for you, not even over a pole on the ground.
"I'm starting to understand," I told her, "why you sometimes burst into tears when you ride him."
She's very dismissive, is Maud.
She said, "But when he goes well, it's like flying."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One Day

David Nicholls
One Day should come with a health warning attached: This Book is Seriously Addictive. I began to read it on a Thursday afternoon, while the children were at football practice and apart from a dinner date with my husband when I ranted endlessly about the disillusion that men and women can ever be friends I continued to read it to the very last sentence – I could not put it down!
The last time I lost myself in a life story was when I was addicted to ‘Cold Feet’ and could watch an entire series in one sitting - so it is perhaps interesting to note here that David Nicholls, the author of One Day wrote the screenplays for the third series of Cold Feet...
One Day is the story of Emma and Dexter who meet at their university graduation, 15 July 1988. Emma is earnest and industrious; she has a double first; she holds strong political views, wears NHS specs and has terrible hair. As Dexter observes when he meets her -‘the problem with these fiercely individualistic girls was that they were all the same.’
Dexter is lazy and lewd, from a privileged background, spoilt and good looking, directionless; ‘he wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random it would be a cool photograph.’
I know what you’re thinking because I thought the same – No, No, No, stop right now, it’s never going to work. She’s always going to be grateful he looked at her; he’s always going to take her for granted.
And even though I do not approve of recreational sex the kindest thing that could have happened to Emma the night of her graduation was a quick student shag, wake up and find him gone, never see him again; something to laugh about when she’s forty...
Instead Emma and Dexter spend the night talking about what they hope to achieve in life, and by morning they have become ‘friends’.
And for the next twenty years, a chapter a year, through comprehensive school teaching, car crash television, drugs, a cancer stricken mother, a broken engagement, a failed marriage, Cool Britannia and beyond – Emma and Dexter remain ‘friends’.
Except Emma and Dexter cannot be friends for Emma is in love with Dexter, and Dexter loves only himself; the closest he gets to affection or love is to write to her, while drunk: “You’re gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life, it would be this. Confidence. It would be the gift of confidence. Either that or a scented candle.’
Finally Emma breaks away from him to live her own life in Paris. But like a terminal disease he follows her and reels her back into his clutches. Without the slightest hesitation she gives up her new life to be with him. (“Stop Emma, don’t do it,” I shouted, but she wouldn’t listen to me).
Endlessly supportive and loyal and loving, she uses her own cash to set him up in a business (where he flirts with the woman he works with)...
Just as I predicted: she was always going to be grateful he looked at her; he was always going to take her for granted.
VERDICT: I wish I could have got Emma to read the book of her life, the day of her graduation. For I know a smart girl like her would have run away screaming when she saw Dexter coming.

Monday, April 19, 2010


It is a well documented fact that Jezebel is my favourite movie. Set in the 'Deep South' before the Civil War, wilful Bette Davis refuses to wear a white frock at the ball... Her stuffed shirt boyfriend Henry Fonda huffs and moves to the North. Bette pines for him until he returns - but the bugger comes back married!
Hell hath no fury like Bette Davis scorned and she unleashes the very worst of her wiles, inciting a duel and causing a riot...
I recently found the trailer on U Tube - I especially like the tag line - A woman who was loved when she should have been whipped - from that alone you can tell this movie was made in 1938!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thrift Shop Chic

I know Versace at my age is beyond the joke, but I simply couldn't resist...
My new-to-me sunglasses cost only 2 Dinars at the thrift shop sale - with make-up and lipstick and imagination I might pass for a red headed version of Anna Wintour from Vogue...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Queen and I

Margaret went into the living room to telephone Bobo Criche-Hutchinson, leaving the Queen to throw the root vegetables and the Oxo cube into the saucepan. Mrs Maundy had told her that broth has to simmer on a low heat for hour - 'to draw the goodness out' - but the Queen was ravenous, she needed to eat now, at once. Something tasty and filling and sweet. She reached for the bread and jam and made herself a pile of sandwiches. She ate standing at the worktop without a plate or napkin.
She had once been reassured by a senior politician - a woman - that the reason the poor could not manage on their state benefits was because 'they hadn't the aptitude to cook good, simple, nutritious meals.'
The Queen looked at her good, simple, nutritious broth bubbling in the pan and reached for another slice of bread and jam.
Extract from The Queen and I by Sue Townsend

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Male Role Model

Nick is working in Saudi and Rex has become obsessed with... Michael Jackson. He has the hat, he has the moves, but instead of a glove Rex has a bandage which he wraps round his hand and wears as a sling -
"Have you hurt yourself darling?"
"It's fashion, Mum."
Where has my rugger bugger boy gone? He's stopped pushing over his sisters, kicking a football into their faces, and chasing them with dead insects.
In fact yesterday he spent half an hour restyling Beatrice's hair.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Double Comfort Safari Club

Alexander McCall Smith
I remember vividly when I discovered The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. It was December 1999. We’d just moved to Botswana. Nick was building a Radio and TV station and Maud, our first born, was ten weeks old. We were living in a thatched house with a lightening conductor on the roof, in a village called Tlokweng. My social life was baby and church and thanks to both I was invited to join a book club by the church-going mother of another small baby…
The book club specialized in African novels. There was an extensive library to choose from but as I’d been reared on Irish literature I didn’t recognize any of the authors. So I asked my church going friend to choose something for me she thought I might like and she picked The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. She said: “Best start with a novel set in Botswana…..”
The No1 Ladies’ Detective, Precious Ramotswe, is a Motswana lady left a legacy by her late father. Armed with a textbook entitled ‘The Principals of Private Detection’, a little white van and a teapot she rents an office in Botswana’s capital city, Gaborone, and optimistically opens for business.
‘What else does a detective agency really need? Detective agencies rely on human intuition and intelligence both of which Mma Ramotswe had in abundance.’
Business is slow at the start, until Mma Ramotswe solves her first case - a husband who goes missing after joining a church and becoming a Christian. Turns out the poor fellow was getting baptised in a swollen river after heavy rain, when he was swept way and eaten by a crocodile. Mma Ramotswe hunts the crocodile, shoots it, guts it and finds the man’s watch, which she returns to his wife. The wife takes the sad news calmly.
“Well at least I know he’s with the Lord,” she said, “And that’s much better than knowing he’s in the arms of some other woman, isn’t it?”
The Double Comfort Safari Club is the eleventh novel in this charming series. Mma Ramotswe is now married, she has two foster children; she has an ambitious assistant called Grace. This time her investigations must take her to the Okavango Delta in the picturesque north of Botswana to seek a tracker who has been left three thousand dollars by a tourist. Much is made of the expensive Hi-Tec boots assistant detective Grace insists she will need to venture out into the bush – I laughed ruefully and with recognition at this part of the story for I wore the same pair of Hi-Tec boots every day for four years in Botswana, even though they were a size too big on me – I’d bought them when I was pregnant with Maud and had ridiculously swollen feet...
Alexander McCall Smith was born and brought up in Zimbabwe, the volatile next door neighbour to peaceful Botswana. He is Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and a prolific novelist – author of over sixty books, on a wide array of subjects, from medical law to philosophy and translated into thirty seven languages. The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has received two Booker Judge’s Special Recommendations.
VERDICT: Throw away your self help books; chuck your happy pills into the bin. To learn the precious art of contentment, allow me to recommend the philosophical musings and gentle humour of The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wedding Day

Here are my parents on their wedding day more than forty years ago - don't they both look so happy?
This is the first time I've seen them in colour, for their wedding album is black and white and very formal and stiff.
My cousin found this photo in her attic, a snapshot from my aunt's colour camera - she scanned it and sent it this morning....

Friday, April 2, 2010

National Costume Day

It was National Costume Day at school and I asked the girls - ex-patriates all their lives - where they thought they came from....
Maud, conceived in Oman, tells me she is Irish - she's in white with shamrocks
Beatrice, though born in Africa, thinks she'd like to be English - she's dressed as one of Henry the Eight's six wives, hopefully one who did not lose her head.
Florence prefers to be Northern Irish, like myself. But I'm not quite sure what sporting event she's representing here - with green rugby socks and a pink hairband...