As I look out across the now green grass I remember a really wonderful summer. Short and to the point you might say. A summer making a statement.But what a battle it was to start with! Memories are short, I know, but can we ever forget the cold of last Spring? Would the summer ever begin? I heard that said over and over again as we shivered and wondered whatever to do about the summer bedding plants. We were all feeling upset, not only for ourselves and our rising heating costs, but for the garden centres and all the people who work outside. Remember? And the fashion shops were so disheartened, full of summery prints, about as useful then as a chocolate teapot. My little swimming pool remained tightly covered and piled with snow, still host to playful skating birds trying to keep warm just like the rest of us. And then suddenly, as if it had woken up and remembered that this was England and almost July, and it had better get started. And start it did. So I could now plant into my polytunnel all the desperate little plants - cabbages, lettuces, tomatoes, courgettes, melons and rhubarb. Yippee they seemed to shout - now there'll be some legroom! They had been crowding each other out in my greenhouse for weeks. And that was the start of our beautiful summer of 2013. All about six weeks late of course, but all buzzing with life. And I must say that for the first time ever, I was so thrilled with what was happening in the tunnel that I even photographed the cabbages and lettuces because I have never grown such perfect unblemished things in my whole life. And that is more or less how the entire summer carried on. But I think that perhaps is enough of vegetable talk
I wrote in my last post about my adventures into trying to earn a bit of pocketmoney and the disaster that turned into. So I have steered clear of that kind of thing because I have never heard of anyone having any success making money on the web. I did start listing many books on Amazon. I called myself (still do) Pearlsboox and actually got rid of quite a few off my shelves and happily made room for others, because I do quite a lot of reading these days and winter is coming on so I need the space. But even this occupation is weird. I have written about this before in an earlier post and nothing has changed. I still find that the stranger and more peculiar the book is, the quicker it will sell. No novels, few autobiographies except if they are definitely odd. Reading up on the subject of selling books on Amazon, I find
the best sales are for definite 'way out' books. Remote poets go well, for example I recently sold a book of poems by an unknown poet - at least he was to me and had languished on the shelves, mostly unread for years. I sold it to a buyer who turned out to be his grandson. Other books about herbs and witches and curtain making have done well and if only I could find 'A History of Peat Bogs through the Ages' or 'The Boys Bumper Book Of Worms and their Diseases' that would go as fast. If I could ever be bothered I would ransack bookshops for such items and maybe make a mint.!! But no, this year I swam more than in any year since I first had my little pool mark1 almost 50 years ago. Plenty of time for books and anyway what is left listed on my website just doesn't seem to sell, so I only look now and then to see what's going on. No, Robin my son is not holding me up in this picture (as if) he'd just tried to duck me and I was having none of it. I was just wondering if there might be a few days left for the odd barbeque? We have had a quite a few this year which again has been why this past summer has been so enjoyable.
I did have a lovely time on 'The Orient Express' in March - whilst it was still freezing cold. A friend had reached her 85th birthday - hence the twenties cap in the photo -
and she had been kind enough to invite me along with some other friends from old theatre days and her more recent travel guiding days. Such a luxurious train and serving the most delicious and beautifully prepared food. They really do give service that is so rare these days. We went along the south coast to Hastings and Dover and Ramsgate and Whitstable. I declined the oysters offered in Whitstable as I had bad memories of them, but most of the company had them and everyone thoroughly enjoyed them. Apart from the foggy cold weather outside, we had the most enjoyable day. So lovely to be with old friends. Quite memorable.
Apart from my dear friend Paul Kelly having about 30 of his books published on Kindle which was great cause for happy celebration, just a few things have weighed heavily this year. One was the ending of a friendship of many years duration on the web and the other was the death of a very sweet young friend. The first was caused by money. How right was Shakespeare when he said 'neither a lender not a borrower be'. A ridiculous situation which could have been so easily resolved, but that's life I guess. The second was the sudden death through breast cancer of my dear Hungarian friend Gabi. She was only 42. Alas, she told no one and was a total believer in herbal cures and refused to accept her condition until it was too late. God bless you Gabi, I will never forget you or your kindness when Francis and I visited Budapest as guests of the BBC. Francis Rentoul was the real guest as he featured in a publication being celebrated and I accompanied him. After all, he was 90 at the time. We were looked after by Gabi and her associate Bela who has remained a friend ever since. Francis has been gone 5 years now and how sorry he would have been that this has happened. As you might have read in a previous post, I, too, had breast Cancer but I was one of the lucky ones. All it did to me was to stop me thinking about working again, although I know I am more than capable. But at my age I can't dwell upon that too much - I just take each day as it comes and I certainly am not complaining.
But Gabi would be the last person to have me end this post on a miserable note so I will say that one of the happiest things to happen this summer was an old colleague Robin Squires came across my name on the 'linkedin' website and got in touch. He came to see me for lunch one day and did we have a load of catching up to do! He told me of many of his most recent and exciting projects, the one he happened to be busy with then was this, do visit the site, you'll find it engrossing I know. http://www.lavenderdays.org
Then he came again with a small 'band' comprising himself and a wonderful couple of entertainers. Just my kind of music and I simply love Lynda's voice.
Do please visit this website and see them in action
Lynda Styan - Red Hot Ukelele / Vocal Duo!
Red Hot Duo
Robb himself is a most prolific script writer and has many projects on the go right now and he works closely with Lynda and her marvellous ukelele duo. So on that happy note I shall say adieu until the next time.
Yes, finally I have given in. I found a reason to sound off! I wonder just how many get caught in this nasty little web of lies and deceit called 'UPSELLING'. It is not that I didn't wish to contribute to my blog - it's just that who the dickens would be interested anyway? Nothing exciting has happened. At my age who would expect it to? The book cover shown here was published just about the time I was born, So there! Is anyone still alive out there? Well OK so I have got started . Now what? I'll start with today. And what a morning! This is how it all began.
Last evening, at about 5pm,I had switched off my computer and retired for the evening to a load of boring television which I very soon tired of. I have a second laptop in my sitting room, so I thought I'd switch that one on and see if anyone had written to me lately. Yes a couple of old emails from a week or so ago. And a few spam mails and another that I thought I'd open. So I did. A presentaion from a young man being very persuasive about the fact that he was giving away his system of making money on the Internet. Yes, giving it away. I actually listened to it right the way through. Hmm, thought I, not bad, I'll take another look tomorrow on my proper computer, so I sent the mail through to myself and switched off. This morning I woke up, had breakfast, did the usual odd chores (such an exciting life these days) and went to start up my computer to see what the day would bring. And yes, there it was, the mail I had sent to myself last night with all the info from that nice young man about a jolly good way to earn a few bob (actually quite a few million bob) on the internet with a little effort and precious little money. In fact no money at all. It was free. Take note - FREE! And soon I would be rich.
So I was 'sucked in'. I opened it up again and listened to the sales pitch to be sure I really did like what I was hearing. I then did what was asked of me, I put in my name and email address and lo! Up came what was to be the start of a villainous route to ruin (had I not been so Internet savvy finally). First of all I considered that whatever I was to get, I would of course need a domain name and a hosting company and for this I was prepared to pay, up to a small amount anyway. So I filled in my details, chose my name for the website which was to be full of lovely freebies and arranged for a year's hosting. (So you see it wasn't really FREE at all) That done I hit the final button for my credit card to be debited and to be taken to my lovely new website which they said would follow and my business would start immediately bringing me in lots of money. And that's when the trouble started. Up came a page which said "wait you must have one of the following packages" - these showed how many hits would be guaranteed over what period of time. And the price? $997 reduced to $197 just for me! I scrolled down in a panic and found a tiny message 'no thanks - take me to my site' I clicked again and up came another offer This time for fewer hits over a lesser time and costing $90. I scrolled again and hit the 'take me to my site button. But it kept on and on. Another offer and another, each one making it clear to me that without at least a few of these packages there was no hope of my ever making a sale from this wondrous new site I had spent $166 for. So I signed out and searched for the company and their address which I found. I emailed them saying I had obviously been mistaken in purchasing this item and stating that I was not prepared to spend any more money in the present financial climate and please would they cancel my order. Details of which I had carefully put into notebook and was able to give clearly. Within a few minutes I received a reply stating that they would help with the offers by reducing the prices for shorter times, or would I please give my reasons for wishing to cancel. I explained that I had been 'taken in' by the presentation by the young man, who had been so convincing that I had believed him that everything was 'FREE' This must have been accepted and to their credit they cancelled the order and I breathed a sigh of relief.
But all this just goes to show how easy it is to be taken in by a good presentation. I can't tell you how many times I have kicked myself for falling for it. It was just too good to be true. How many times have we heard that said? An old codger like me? Taken in like that? Well now I can get on with things that matter and these I will tell you about shortly because they all concern what is going on in my greenhouse and with the atrocious weather I am at daggers with! 'Bye for now!
So here I am back again. Not that anyone could possibly give a hoot for anything I might have to say BUT....
I might as well say it, as it is a kind of therapy. Recreation if you like. Almost four years ago, when I first decided to get it all off my chest, I really did find that it helped. My life had changed so much since the demise of- first of all Giorgio -and then dear Francis, both within a short distance of each other. I had found myself, for the first time in my life, quite alone. Now that's not so bad when you are young but it's not so good when you are old. Especially if, like me, you don't really like joining things, and going to clubs for the elderly or whatever. I mailed out to a few people I knew and got a lot of replies back, so it wasn't as if I was just talking to myself.
So now I am looking back to remember what I have been up to since we last spoke. I think I told you about my joining the adult education classes didn't I? I tried Bridge for a couple of seasons, and even gave my conservatory over as a venue for private sessions with about twelve players on a weekly basis. It wasn't that I found Bridge difficult. I like mathematics. But I just didn't enjoy it!
Can't say the same for the writing classes. Except that they weren't writing classes. They were listening and showing off classes. We listened to whatever we each had dreamed up for the topic we had been given by the class master. Very nice but not exactly learning anything about the actual subject. I must say that the writers were simply marvellous and the different takes on the subjects were a joy to listen to. BUT.....The French classes drove me to frenzy because I was ahead of them all (BIG HEAD) and the drama reading classes became the subject for a farce. Listening to old men and women (I was one) reading roles meant for 20 year olds was nothing short of depressing. So I bottomed out as they say. Apart from the fact that as an old pro, it is hard to playread in an amateur way. It is just not fair to oneself or to the assembled group. Also the chairs get very hard after 90 minutes!!!
And that brings me up to last summer. Not a good one was it? Weather was dodgy and we only had sporadic sunshine. I hardly used my swimming pool at all last year! So everything crossed for a better situation this year. Such a darned good pool is this one. All plastic, it came from Canada and is now in its eleventh year. It is the third one I have had in the garden and a total joy compared to the previous ones. They were all metal and needed total repainting and derusting every 2 years. This one is all plastic and nothing like the chore of the older ones. It is my little bit of luxury each year when the weather is kind to us. I hope I can still manage to get in and out, poor old soul! Right now it is greenhouse time. Much work to be done and I am happy to say that I have started. Because of the price of plants from the garden centres and the catalogues I am starting from seed much more this year. February seems a good time to start and I have already done some of the hanging baskets and about twenty seed trays.
I am very fortunate in that I have a long polytunnel right down the bottom and out of sight in my garden, as well as the more presentable
glass greenhouse. It is here that I have planted the seeds for the flowers and the few vegetables that I love to grow each year. Having a large garden means that one really does need lots of plants. I must say the seedsmen have become very mean too! Time was when a packet of seeds was just that - a packet of seeds. Now you have to read the back of the pack to see how many seeds. Sometimes as low as five. Imagine a hundred weight!!! Trillions of pounds or dollars that would bring in! Last year and the year before I tried nasturtiums for the first time. They were fabulous both in the hanging baskets and against the wall so I have sowed quite a lot again this year. Hoping for a good crop of tomatoes, too. They usually are very good from the polytunnel and are a boon for freezing and cooking throughout the winter. Not that I do so much these days, but still, it is nice to have the produce from the garden. At least you know it is fresh and not full of chemicals.
One of things I got up to last summer - around September - I decided to try my hand at selling some books on Amazon. I have so many and I know my family will just chuck 'em out at my demise, so why not sell some? I signed up and called myself Pearlsboox and actually sold quite a few. I have got my list of titles up to about 230 odd. Each time I sell one I try to add another. Not easy though. I have found that the really weird books sell best. Celtic Poems, History of Coconut Matting Through the Ages, Boys Own book of Warts and Pimples etc that sort of thing. True. Novels hardly sell at all. Biographies hardy ever, unless it is by some weirdy of old. But you never know. Things have become very slow now. February and a few months after Christmas I daresay it is to be expected. One thing I will not do is to sell books at a penny as so many sellers do. They must be crazy with the cost of postage and packing. I will not insult the author. I have asked Amazon why they permit it but they are not sympathetic. Still I find that even with similar books priced so low, mine seem to sell at a fair price, and if they don't sell- so what? They are stilll here and nothing's lost.
I also ventured into E-bay too. Got rid of a few dresses that I'd never worn and a few handbags and odds and ends. But again, it is not something to go into seriously unless you have a good product wanted by everyone and are prepared to take on a shop. Loads of great eBooks to be found here Like boot fairs I think Ebay is becoming too big. You used to be able to go to a boot sale and find bargains from people's attics and homes. Things that were interesting and perhaps old and valuable. But there are now so many TV programmes about making money at boot sales and fairs that the meaning has gone out of the window. Go to Ebay now and you will find Marks and Spencer and Harrods and Tesco there. Not what it was once all about. But business is business and nothing stays the same forever, more's the pity sometimes. I found out about an American website that was for Arts and Crafts recently so I listed a group of matted prints I had mounted of 3 film posters. They do not photgraph very well
I shall finish here now. I really will be sure to come back again soon. Take care.
But all that apart (while we wait) I must say that one of the most enjoyable things I have done recently is to attend the party of a very old friend down in
Well, back to normality again tomorrow and no parties in sight for the foreseeable future. Next on the date list is another session of my writing class. The topic we were given is one that caused me a bit of worry because it was titled
"In a Rut" I am very lucky because I can hardly ever remember that this happened to me - ever. So I really did have to wrack my brains and try to recall a very 'down' time. It was so long ago. I was almost tempted to write it as if it had happened to someone else, but gradually I can remember a time many years ago. Well here is the tale, not very long, for what it's worth.
IN A RUT
Looks very beautiful I know but one can have too much of a good thing, especially if, like me, you found yourself unable to get the car out of the garage for 12 days. Not actually because of the snow either. No, the slabs in front of the garage doors had been pushed up from the ground by the heavy frosts just before the snow. And when finally I did manage it, the poor wretched vehicle had put in its own protest and revealed a totally flat battery! First time ever in my life. And I know I was not alone. My mind did occasionally go back to 1961 when we'd had a far worse winter than this. But I was almost forty years younger then and whizzing around on a sledge was something I relished along with Robin. Ou sont les neiges d'antan? HMM!
Well now I have pulled myself together and actually have made a start in my greenhouse preparing for what I hope will be a lovely spring and summer. All very well to sit back and moan, but hey it is winter! So into the greenhouse I went and did a major clear up. Many cactus had turned to a foul smelling jelly worthy of the best Dr. Who potions. Usually I heat the greenhouse to just above freezing point but really, the cost of electricity has determined that I no longer run to this luxury. You can see some here in this picture. Happily my huge roof hitting specimins were intact and so far I have sown up about 20 trays of various seeds.
Alas it will be ages before the greenhouse starts to look like this again.
Today we are being poured upon so I
have decided that another afternoon will
be spent sowing another batch. Actually I am doing far more vegetables this year and am starting
the seeds off in the greenhouse, so that I have just the number of plants
I need before getting them transplanted into my huge polytunnel
which I hope and pray will last another year or two after the damage
done by the fox or badger. We never did prove who the villain was who made several shredded holes in it last year. My gardening lads were quite pleased with the sonic things I had bought which we hope were responsible for aiding its (or their) departure.
Now I mustn't give the impression that I am idle for the rest of the time. Oh dear me no. I still persist with learning how to play Bridge. Sometimes I actually enjoy it except that I do not like the really ardent players who do nothing but talk about it. And do a long winded post mortem at the end of a game. We do have laughs sometimes and once I have sorted out what I am doing at the bidding stage I find it all quite enjoyable. Then I have a computer class at U3A which is usually very good especially if we get an interesting speaker. My really favourite class though is the Writing For Pleasure. It always amazes me how many and varied ideas come forth from one subject by 15 odd people. The last class asked for a subject called "SCANDINAVIAN" For what it is worth here is my offering.
In 1945 Arthur Miller wrote his first novel. It was called ‘FOCUS’ and centred on a man inadvertantly caught up in anti semitism in
Remember this was just after a world war fought over racial hatred by the Nazis. The principal player in this story is a Mr Newman whose vanity stopped him wearing spectacles until he was really forced to. Then he bought a pair and once on they made him look decidedly Jewish. He wasn’t. He was just an Anglo American. The nasty story goes from there. It was actually turned into a Drama for BBC television in the late sixties and starred the late artistes Ray McAnally and my dear friend Vivien Merchant (the first wife of Harold Pinter). I had a small part in it as Mr Newman’s secretary.
Somewhere between these two events I found myself in
was a self employed script editor, and Jewish, working on television production in
‘You won’t stay anywhere but with my family’ came the immediate response in that amazingly hospitable American fashion, and that is why I found myself esconsed in Long Island with one of the loveliest families I ever had the privelege of knowing. I am happy to say that I was able to return their offer a few times during the next few years both in
Anyway, at the time of my arrival Robert and his wife, Miki, with their family of four boys were on vacation, and heading towards the last few days before he would be commuting daily into New York, where his offices were, and would take me with him.
It is hard to believe but even then Jewish people were not welcome in many New York Hotels and restaurants. Even after fighting a world war against the Nazi regime. I was really shocked and terribly embarrassed for both my friends. “Could we ask you to pretend to be our au pair?” Miki whispered in my ear. Swedish I thought. Don’t speak a word. Supposing someone spoke to me? Danish just the same, Norwegian - oh help. “OK” I said, “I’ll just speak with an accent and pretend I understand nothing.
So after a long rigmarole at the door when I held on to Jeffrey’s hand in the most attentive way I could manage, in we went after much signing of books and frantic thankyous. I was finally signed in as Scandinavian Nursing staff to Mr and Mrs Fromm. Guest. That was that.
Well the evening was fine. I thought it wise to not say too much too loudly and we had a marvellous time with skittles and bowls. I played my part well I believe because I avoided everyone except to give a big smile and turn in another direction. The menu was in a kind of American Yiddish and I asked that they choose for me. It was scrumptious. I must have said a hundred times to the waiter ‘ferry goot,’ ‘ ferry goot.’ I was introduced to various people and said Ja Ja Helo Helo. I remember I smiled a lot and nodded my head and laughed in a weird way as Scandinavians might have done, after all what did I know? But none of us was prepared for what followed.
At about (4 in the morning for my still partly jetlagged body) we all left and headed towards the car. (I have thought long and hard about this but shouldn’t bumble bees be in bed after dark?) Suddenly there was Robert hitting his head and banging his ear frantically with his fists. He was really distressed and kept saying something had flown into his ear and was buzzing, buzzing. Miki took the wheel and we headed for a hospital. The three older boys were really not sure whether to laugh or cry, but Miki and Robert were really worried. We got to the hospital on
Isn’t it weird that I had started this little fable off with Arthur Miller and his story of Jewish anti semitism? But how else could it have been told?
Apart from this kind of thing the whole of last year was not without its woes and excitements. One of the woes was that my son, Robin, was made reduntant from his job as an antique car auction house manager. But the woe didn't last. Robin had been in business for himself many years before he took on that particular job, so it didn't need much imagination to know what he would do next! Actually I am pleased in a way about the redundancy because Robin had always been in business for himself for many years. He is well respected and knows his business inside out. They are a very nice lot of people within that industry too. All united by a love of old and classic motor cars. They all seem to care for each other and take a huge interest in other people with the same interests. They also do lovely ‘functions’ as well and in fact I went on one with them towards the end of the summer. So everything crossed for Robin’s success with his Sports and Classic Cars Business.
This took place in a wonderful setting at the time of the first snow of this past winter. Right in the heart of
See you again soon. Bye for now.
I often wonder if one has had too much at the start of life it evens out at the end? Does one feel rather lost because there have been so many times when there were not enough hours in the day? I guess so in my case at least.
So what would you have done, or what did you do when suddenly you found yourself rattling around instead of bustling around? I did find my darling cats a bit restricting. Time was when I had a girl friend who would willingly come and stay, but she is no longer an option. So I have resigned myself to not going anywhere too far. Try to keep busy within the perameters of home sweet home. So you look around.
I found out about The University of the Third Age. Third age is anything over 50. There seemed to be a lot going on there. So I joined a Bridge class and a Computer Club. I am not too good at the Bridge and I really wish I liked it more, but I will persevere. Actually it was almost enough last year because I also did a private course of lessons at my house for Bridge every week. These things plus the fact that there was a bumper crop of everything in my polytunnel in the summer kept me somewhat occupied. My little swimming pool got more than its fair share of use too, bad summer or not. The previous year Darling Feri had not been well enough so we hadn't used it too often. Even when we'd gone on holiday to Cornwall he hadn't wanted to move from the hotel. Not that it mattered because the Nare, near St. Austell is so completely comfortable there is no need to leave it if you don't wish to.
But now we are heading towards winter. The frosts have taken their toll on the last of the annuals in the garden and I must start to look ahead. How to fill the days? I decided to expand my interests in U3A. Thought I'd carry on with the Bridge but go again from the beginning, because I hadn't really got the hang of it when I started. As well as joining the second year class!! Ambitious or what? A bit of French conversation caught my eye, so I'll do that - only once a month. And then another thing I had never considered, for myself anyway, "Writing for Pleasure" Hm don't know how I'll make out at that, but I like the sound of it so I enrolled. Instead of telling you all about it I will simply lay out my first 'offering' so that you may judge whether or not I should continue. Here goes: Funny title but that's not my fault.
"There I was, sitting in, and part of a group whose intent was “writing for pleasure”. Only my second attendance and I had been impressed. I had listened to some very interesting renditions of various ideas given the session before. I had not at that point contributed anything, thinking myself totally unable to compete. (The previous session had been absolutely brilliant). Never could I ever hope to compete with such imagination. Anyway, there we were and at the end of the 2 hours a short list was read out for our next session. (Homework, like we were back in school) I couldn’t of course find my pen to write the instructions for the next session down, but I did remember one – 38.
Weird thought I. 38? What the heck did he imagine we could do with that? Man’s potty. 38!! You might as well try to remember what you were up to at the age of 38, quite a long way back, but even so by then I’d been at my present house for ten years and my son was already 18!! Cripes.
What about the 38 bus? Used to take me from
Then of course there was 38 shillings. There I stopped. That figure was something life-saving to me once. How? What had led me to think that? Well I was in
I, had been engaged to play young leads. Tall and blonde I had passed the severest of tests at the home of a Mr Harry Hanson, owner of a huge number of repertory companies around the country at the time, Hastings, Bradford, Skipton, Keighley, with his star company being in Leeds. He lived in Warlingham in
But upon arrival I was given a copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. This, I was told, was Mr Hanson’s favourite play. I had a warming cup of something and then leafed through the pages preparing to read the leading role (after all there really is only one young woman’s role) The young –unnamed heroine. But no. To my dismay Mr Hanson read those lines and I filled in with all the rest. Stage directions and all. Took two hours and several cups of hot milk and Horlicks because he thought I needed fattening up at the time. But I was IN! We discussed salary – no one used agents in those days for repertory work, and we discussed my domestic arrangements since D was already up there in
My Mother had agreed to take the baby and I was to travel up to
Our producer was a dear man called Laurie Storm.
He was a kind and thoughtful man as well as a delightful producer. He could see what was happening to me privately. So he spoke to Mr Hanson and a scheme was devised whereby I would finish one play on the Saturday night, then not be cast in the next one and turn up to rehearse the one following that for the Tuesday morning. That way I could go to
And my baby is fifty something!!
By the way, if I had posted this to you it would have cost me 38 pence!"
So now you know what I am trying to fill the days with. There is also the computer club, but that is just a bit of technical keeping up with the Jones's so to speak. We usually get a speaker who will discuss something to do with everyday computing, like the full use of "Word" or we might spend time visiting members' favourite websites!! I really think I will like the writing best of all. But time will tell. I will only ever be able to write about something I know. See what subjects they throw at me and learn from everyone else I expect. One subject tackled in many different ways. Hope they don't pick Bridge! All humour will disappear if they do. Dreadful attitude, pull yourself together girl!
So now I shall sign off and think about what the next subject might be. In a couple of weeks or so. Till then keep well and keep smiling.