Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The joy of giving?

I love buying presents. I love looking for, and I hope finding, the right present, wrapping it nicely, and it being A SURPRISE. But this doesn't happen any more. What happens is lists, like wedding present lists, and conversations that go like this (Mabel is nearly at the end of her shopping, her tether and this conversation. Mabel is On Tablets):

Mabel: so I'm  giving Giles the train and Ebony the Lego?
Josephine: no, no! He's getting the train from Auntie Loo, and Ebony isn't into Lego any more.
Mabel: then what would Ebony like?
Josephine: The doll that pees and sh**s  (there is such a thing. My daughter was given one long before she had babies that also p.......oh, never mind)
Mabel: but...oh dear... then what can I get for Giles?
Josephine: the sit-on Ferrari? (Mabel can't afford the Ferrari, so she goes out and shoots herself. Problem solved.)

I know lists are probably easier, because eventually Giles will get his Ferrari and Ebony her revolting doll. But I feel for poor Mabel. Sadly, unlike her, I don't have a pistol.

(And if any of my family read this, please don't take offence. I just wanted to give you a SURPRISE, even if you didn't need one.)

Friday, 1 December 2017

An interview with the "Knicker Lady"

For fun, I'm going to conduct two or three interview with interesting older women in unusual jobs. Where better to start than from, as it were, the bottom? Enter Rosemary Hawthorne, aka "The Knicker Lady". Rosemary is wife to a retired vicar, mother of seven, and grandmother of many more. She talks about knickers.

Me: how did this all start?

Rosemary: I went to RADA and trained as an actress, but married young, and gave up acting to start a family. I started off with an interest in "top" clothes and was always fascinated by clothes and costume - the way they develop character and tell a  story. Clothes are not only practical; they can also be entertainment. I started to collect costumes when I was stuck at home with the kids.

Me: and the talks?

Rosemary: while the children were still small and money was short, I was asked to give a talk on clothes generally. I was paid £8.

Me: and the knickers?

Rosemary: I gave more talks, and started to show a few bits from my collection of underwear. I discovered that this made the audience laugh, and that's where it all started. Someone suggested that I ought to write a book about knickers, and this was published as A Brief History of Unmentionables. There was insufficient publicity, and the book didn't sell until it was reissued - with extensive editing - by a new publisher, this time as "Knickers. An Intimate Appraisal." This was a huge success. The vicars/knickers thing helped, of course.

Me: and then?

Rosemary: I was invited everywhere: the North, Wales, South coast - you name it. I've spoken to Rotary Clubs, as after-dinner speaker, to magistrates, all-male, mixed groups - you name it. I must have given several hundred talks. And after my husband retired, I did some theatre tours as well.

Me: what is it about knickers?

Rosemary: they're funny, just a bit naughty. I have to keep it fun; entertain, but not shock; put in a bit of history.

Me: and your collection of knickers?

Rosemary: I found that I needed to have "actuals" rather than, for example, slides. Real knickers. I've now got between 300-400 pairs, including Queen Victoria's knickers. The talks work for groups of mixed ages and sexes, and make very good ice-breakers.

Me: what's the most embarrassing question you've been asked?

Rosemary (sighing): someone always asks what knickers I'm wearing.

Me: and your reply?

Rosemary (laughs): clean ones!

Take it from me, Rosemary's talks are brilliant, and very funny. To see this beautiful, very petite figure flitting about a stage waving a pair of bloomers twice her size is something not to be missed.

Here you can see Rosemary in action.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Royal engagement

I know, I know. Everyone's talking about it, either to rejoice or to tut  about the fuss, and the expense, and the privilege blah blah blah.

I know for a fact that several of my (esteemed) followers are against the royal family, but I think we're incredibly lucky. We have a Queen who is the envy of (much of) the world;  who is loyal, charming, dutiful, and best of all, apolitical. When I think of politics, I see grey mist. With the royal family, it's colour and coaches and stunning horses (oh, those horses!), and happy, cheering crowds. Billions of people around the world watched the last royal wedding. Who or what can match that? Like it or not, our royal family give a great deal of pleasure to a great many people. And I'm one of them. After all, no one has to take any interest if they don't want to. Just don't read the papers for a week or so.

I've no idea what the future will hold once the Queen has gone,  but for the moment, we have a royal family to be proud of. At a cost of just 50p a year each.

I, for one, think that's a bargain.

(I'm also a huge fan of Meghan Markle, not least because Suits is our favourite TV programme, but I know that's beside the point.)

Monday, 20 November 2017

Dead Ernest lives again

This is the new cover for Dead Ernest, which is being re-issued in the new year by Sapere Books. I think it's much better than the old one, except that Ernest would probably  have cleaned his boots. But you can't win 'em all, and I really love it. (.And Ernest's still dead, so he can't complain.)

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Farewell, womags...

Sadly, I've decided not to write any more magazine stories. Since writing longer fiction, I've found the short stories harder and harder, and I no longer enjoy writing them as I used to do. Time was when I was earning about the same writing them as I was in my (part time) nursing job, but I just can't do it any more. I've lost both the urge and the knack. Plus, changes in some of the magazines have been sad and difficult for all of us, with familiar names vanishing. Perhaps it's just that I'm getting old...

I sold my first short story to Woman's Realm nearly forty years ago, so it probably really is time to say goodbye. But it's been fun; sometimes disappointing, sometimes rewarding, and over the years, I collected my fair share of rejections. My last short story appeared in November's W W Fiction Special. That magazine and I go back a long way, so it seemed a fitting place to end.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Lest we forget

     My thirteen-year-old grandson has just written  this. It says it all.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The hell that is children's parties

Watching the BBC's very funny series, Motherland, I was put in mind of my own experience of giving children's parties. And there were many. Among other things, I learnt never to:

1. Give a party that lasts more than an hour and a half (if the invitation says "2pm - 5.30pm, the mummy concerned is a beginner. She won't make that mistake again). 

2. Invite the naughtiest boy in the class. I know, I know. It's cruel to leave one child out, but by the time he's opened all the presents and trashed the cake, you'll see what I mean. And that leads me to:

3. Invite the whole class. Unless you live in an unbreakable castle, with sturdy ramparts and electric fencing round the moat, the whole class will be TOO MANY.

4. Invite the parents in with the children. They won't help; they'll stand round gossiping and expect tea, and probably wine. Plus, they'll see what a hash you're making of things, and you won't be able to shout at their child.

5. Leave the doors unlocked. At one memorable party, about ten little girls danced out into the garden and disappeared.

6. Let small guests into bedrooms. My daughter was mortified when a bevy of small boys broke into her bedroom and trashed it.

7. Admittedly this is unlikely to happen, but don't  let the birthday child make a speech. At one party, my youngest son decided to stand on a chair and give a vote of (undeserved) thanks to me. He was promptly heckled, and reduced to tears.

8. Encourage your child to request a cake in the shape of something (Batman, a fairy castle, Barbie's horse etc). Tell him or her the the best cakes come in the shape of a cake. I have in my time made cakes in the shapes of, among other things, various animals, a farm, a truck etc. This takes hours, and the results invariably taste horrible.

9. And finally, don't give another party if you can help it. Ask your child to invite one civilised and well-behaved friend and take them both to the zoo, the cinema, Macdonalds - anywhere but your home. Your child won't get as many presents, it's true, but he or she is unlikely to end up in tears. And he'll have a calm, happy parent. Which, as we all know, is the thing every child needs most 😀