Out & About in the UK

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Portraits – nude

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Returning to the C21st. Sort of. 

Greetings from the long lost Tamara, who now has something resembling a distant cousin of the Internet in her living room, thanks to BT and their 1-meg-on-a-good-day-with-a-following-wind connection. I have given up and given in and no doubt the Wyevale café will a) be glad to see the back of me and b) see a sharp decline in profits. Since they are currently overrun with excited brats having tea with Father Christmas (shouldn’t he be busy supervising all those elves still? Do they know how to pack a sleigh on their own?) and demanding puppies due to the very poorly thought out animatronic display at the main entrance, I suspect they’ll be too busy to notice my absense quite yet. 

Yes, you read that right, Wyevale in Bicester has a giant display at the front door with Father Christmas, wrapped presents and happy, smiley, waggy robot puppies, placed perfectly at toddler eye level. Genius. That distant thumping sound is the entire staff of the Dogs Trust bashing their heads into brick walls for a bit of light relief. 

Continuing our journey through the world of well thought out plans, why do I not have my super-fast, lovely, shiny, too-good-to-be-true fibre connection? It seems this has been held up, possibly til March, by an unexpected railway bridge. Silly irresponsible Victorians leaving these things lying around where they can sneak up on people. 

The more naive of you may think that 150 years of people, dogs, cattle, horses, cars and an ocassional tank not falling onto the railway track might have been a clue as to the bridge’s existence, but what do you know? Do you run a multi-million pound modern communications company? I thought not. You can’t expect clean, modern, city people to actually go outdoors  where they have to wear a coat and breathe unfiltered air, and look at the place they’re planning to dig in advance. Outrageous. No, one plans it all ahead in one’s nice  clean office then presses Go on a team of peasants who set off with their shovels. “Bridge? What are you talking about Sergei?”

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Someone died today

We hadn’t seen each other for many years

We hadn’t spoken for many years 

We were really bad for each other

We brought out the worst in each other

We were not safe together

But I loved you

And I miss you

And I always will

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Life with a Broken Nose

Maybe don’t read this whilst eating…

It’s a constant wonder to me that people hear, “Sorry, I’m ill again” and follow this with a request for me to do something. Now that my illnesses have not only been vindicated by a somewhat shocked Harley Street specialist but are also finally, hopefully, coming to an end, I realise I’m finding such wilful deafness increasingly irritating, in direct and inverse proportion to the decreasing amount of time til the operation in January. 

Broken nose – what does this mean? It’s one of those terms that, unless you’ve ever had one, you think you understand but have never actually thought about (another one is periods, for those who don’t have them at all, and those who have them only mildly – some of us will never want to go roller skating with Dalmatians at that time). If you’ve had your nose broken you know the immediate shock, the amount of blood, the pain, the difficulty in breathing whilst blood blocks your nose and runs down your throat and the awkwardness of sitting around with copious amounts of tissue or towels waiting and waiting and waiting for it to stop. Possibly for several days. If you’re unlucky you may  know the headache, the muzzy thinking and even some effect on focussing or balancing but hopefully you had proper medical attention and these things have been somewhat submerged in the events of a difficult few days now long past. Hopefully you didn’t have an incompetent paramedic, a disinterested doctor and an elderly demanding relative to care for. Spool forward 18 years of difficulty and I hope said elderly relative didn’t smash you across the face with a flailing, almost fleshless, forearm. 

So, what’s it like? It’s like having a lump of wood and a shard of glass permanently wedged in you nose, mouth, teeth and ear. Sometimes it’s a small piece; sometimes, when there’s an infection, which is often, it’s a huge piece. Local swelling in the face is only visible externally if you know what you’re looking for but it affects the muscles around the eye and the nerves leading to eye, ear, teeth causing blurred vision, muffled hearing and toothache.  It causes large production of mucus, completely bunging up the nose, and dropping down the throat into the stomach and lungs. The former causing stomach ache, indigestion and constant hunger, the latter causing racking coughing, vomiting and gasping for air. It causes bleeding, doing all of the above plus scabs with sharp edges causing more injuries to delicate membranes, and infections.  Even when there isn’t an infection, one  nostril is already obstructed with broken bone and cartilage and the other pulled shut by the whole mess, requiring that all breathing is through the mouth. This means a permanent sore throat from cold air constantly hitting the back and regular infections as the usual nasal filter of bacteria and viruses is bypassed. Oh, great. 

Eating is affected as one can’t breathe and chew; one has to choose food that needs minimal chewing, or swallow it poorly chewed, and one always ends up swallowing more air than one should anyway. This, especially when combined with that extra mucus and the unbalanced gut flora that results from its inappropriate presence in the stomach,  results in upset digestion – wind in both directions, constipation, diarrhoea. 

Even on the best of days, the system is flooded with toxins so there is joint pain, stomachache and headache, and one has to be very careful where and what one eats, who one accepts an invitation from, making sure one can leave at the right moment, checking one knows where the bathroom is at all times. On the bad days…

So, when someone tells you they have a broken nose and are feeling unwell, maybe think twice rather than instantly dismissing it as irrelevant and asking them to mind your dog or kids, walk round town all day, go to a nightclub, clear out your attic, eat a roast dinner with your mother in law….

Oh, and please restrain the urge to announce, “It doesn’t look broken” unless you happen to be an ENT specialist. 

Rant over. 

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It seems the countryside is out to kill me but whether I die laughing or screaming remains to be seen. On the one hand we have the starlings fighting each other on the bird table, repeatedly falling off and  flapping about, and the several varieties of tits (blue, great and willow, I think) who were initially put off by the aggression of the bigger birds but which have got braver over the week and now dart through the squabbles, stealing choice pieces from beneath the claws and beaks, all dashing through the air almost too fast to register. There are collared doves on the grass, collecting whatever the tits miss, billing and cooing as they go, and red kites flying high, disdaining my mere mealworms in search of more exciting carrion elsewhere and, so far, just one goldfinch providing this morning’s moment of bird-watching excitement – omganewbird! Quick where’s the book…

On the other hand we have the mysterious smell in the kitchen… 

Removing the nasty old electric fire from the kitchen fireplace reveals one long dead and papery bird, one recently dead and maggotty, and one flustered jackdaw who flies straight over my shoulder, out the thankfully open door and sits on the hedge, eyeing me up as if the 400yr old chimney breast and his descent down it were entirely my design. After a good half hour of evil stare, he cleared off, presumably spreading the word that I am bad news as I haven’t seen a single jackdaw in days. I have, however, binned the manky old electric fire and cleaned and opened up the fireplace so any future adventurers can take their chances with the dogs rather than trying to fly back up the chimney. 

Near my old home in Kensington there was a blue plaque to Alfred Hitchcock and I can’t but help think that his ghost is out to get me as I was only just recalling an adventure many years ago in the roofs of the old Gainsborough Studios in Islington when a friend and I were exploring the abandoned building with the aid of her  trusty Maglight. After many corridors with little so see, all gloriously lit by the light of the torch, we opened a door and entered an area where the beam seemed to vanish into nowhere, illuminating nothing on the way;  we drew breath to comment on the exceptionally soft and deep carpet and unusual stillness of the air… and myriad feathers, feet, beaks and voices took to the air at once. As did we. We screamed; they screamed; we all flapped around in panic running and flying into each other whilst the torch, helpfully, was the only thing that headed towards the floor and inactivity. Vicky and I arrived back on the ground floor in something between an instant and eternity and had to admit to our friends, after several minutes of wide-eyed wheezing, that a mere flock of sleepy, London pigeons had reduced two educated,  modern, women into a couple of dumb, torch-losing, bimbos from a 50s b-movie. 

So, my dear Mr Jackdaw, you’ll have to work harder than that if you want to scare me – I have faced pigeons and survived. Just. 


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Adventures. And Wheelie Bins

Today I have been dealing with refuse. Fascinating stuff. There is so much wrong with central London but one good thing about the close-packed and overcrowded buildings is the total impossibility of the wheelie bin. In Kensington you put all your recycling in a clear bag and all your rubbish in a black one and the council removes them twice a week. Simples. Not so the countryside, I now have a green one for rubbish, a blue one for recycling, a black one for compostable food waste and a brown one for garden waste (err… compost heap?) and each one has to be lugged round the outside of the house and down the drive once a fortnight, alternating the recycling and the other ones. And woe betide you get that wrong! 

My landlord is hugely amused at my lack of experience of what others call normal and sent his daughter this morning to help me deal with the central heating system so I now have hot water from the tap rather than the kettle and can even have heating too if I decide the wood burner isn’t enough. The dishwasher was beyond even her though and it took a trip to a layby and a visit to the fount of all knowledge to sort that one. As usual, Google is my friend and, one hot wash with cup of vinegar later, we have functionality. Tomorrow I may even master the fridge…

To reward myself for this technological success I ventured into Bicester in search of bedding (only in Sainsbury’s unfortunately, but quite nice), a DVD player (another first, thank you Maplin) and lots of doggy toys and treats. A quick wander produced more high street chain stores than I hoped but a couple of nice looking cafés, numerous charity shops, a good-looking Thai restaurant, an excellent-smelling fish & chip shop and an intriguing little antique emporium which will need visiting when I have fewer than 5 dogs in tow. 

Finally, one garden umbrella and a nice table later we returned just in time for the sun to burst out and give a good couple of hours of warmth and romping in the garden.  

 Meanwhile, brown wheelie bin has already been retired, and old compost heap restarted, hopefully won’t need the black one soon either. Really need to buy somewhere before I turn this place into a smallholding! 

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