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Resolutions? Stick ’em up!

Dear Melinda,

I saw your post the other day about not bothering with New Year Resolutions, but that we should all assign a theme to the year, instead.

What a great idea! You say that we should choose something that resonates with us; something that embodies something that has been missing from our daily life. I don’t have any money, Melinda, so my theme for this year is ‘getting rich’ and I plan to rob a bank.

The topics you suggest are mindfulness, movement and enjoyment. And I think you are absolutely on the button with this, Melinda, because I can see that in order to get away with the loot, I’m going to have to pay attention to bamboozling the security cameras. I’m going to wear those new tights with the holly pattern that Santa sent me. (It’s all right, I’m going to put them on my head, I’m not that daft.) I’ll certainly pay attention to the present moment, although, given the circumstances, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop and focus entirely on a child that wants to have a chat. No matter how much you say it will help my fibromyalgia. And then of course, movement is going to be really important. You say it’s good idea to make a mundane task more fun by adding music or a companion, so my husband is coming with me and he’s been practising vaulting over the kitchen table to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

That wasn’t so successful at first, as I should have cleared away the Christmas candlesticks, but apart from a slight limp he’s much better now and he should be able to clear Julie’s drawers in 6.9 seconds. Julie is the cashier who’ll be on duty. (There’s only ever one, however big the queue). We’ve told her all about it, so she’ll have plenty of time to get under the counter. She has a dicky heart, so we thought it right to give her fair warning. Getting away might be a bit tricky, but we’ve got our mobility scooters charged, and we can ditch them and get on a bus once we’re safely round the corner.

Enjoyment, of course, is what we’re really looking forward to. Imagine, Melinda, we’ll be able to afford to put the central heating on, and we may even go to Eastbourne for the weekend. We’ll be able to buy a nice bottle of sherry to celebrate; not something we’d normally do, as our usual New Year’s resolution is to give up drinking.  But there, that’s all down to you, Melinda. Goodbye resolutions, hello themes! Thank you so much for the advice. I think it will change our lives.

Yours sincerely,

Noel and Holly.

Strictly secret


And so it’s over. My love affair lasted only a few months, and sometimes I wondered what on earth I was doing; I tried to tear myself away but I just couldn’t help myself, and now it has ended, as I knew it would, everything feels very flat. I’m talking of course about my really badly guilty pleasure, which is Strictly Come Dancing. Really, I am just a sad old tart.


If you had told me a few years ago that I would settle down every Saturday night to watch a game show hosted by Bruce Forsyth I would have laughed in your face. But I hadn’t bargained for my daughter, then aged 10 demanding that we watch it together. How could I refuse? We’d snuggle up in the armchair, and she’d provide a running commentary on everything that was wrong (and right) with the costumes, while I realised with some internal shock, that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Especially when I copped an eyeful of the male dancers. Occasionally we’d get up and do our own version of the cha cha cha, careering round the room with the dogs barking in confusion. Sometimes we would call in to vote for our favourite dance, and she was thrilled if that one then stayed in the competition. But life goes on. Now my eager little girl is a cool 17, and she views me with amused tolerance when I reach for the remote control on a Saturday night.


But hey, I don’t care. I am well and truly hooked. I love everything about it. I love the good dancers and the awful ones (Dave Myers, you are my favourite) I love the good humour of it all and I love watching celebrities (who unlike in other shows, are generally people I’ve heard of) get way out of their comfort zones. I like shouting at the telly, when things don’t go the way I want (Natalie, you were robbed). I even like Bruce Forsyth and his truly appalling jokes. So who cares about Christmas? Roll on next September I say.     strictly6


Meeting Place – N. E. Skull

Meeting Place – N. E. Skull.

I don’t normally go for poetry blogs, but this is so neatly written and so clever, I just had to repost it.

Where’s the white stuff?



Christmas is coming, (in case anybody hadn’t noticed) and nearly every card I get has snow on it. What is it about that white stuff that gets us all so hopeful? In Britain we border on the delusional about snow. It’s what we all want for Christmas, but we rarely get it. We don’t have white Christmases; we have wet ones; sleety, windy, breezy, damp ones. And if the weather forecast is anything to go by, we are in for some tremendous gales today. Michael Alexander Chaney put some snow scenes from literature in his blog. I’ve got some rain ones. Get your brollies out.

The air was so heavy with water, that not till they had passed Frog’s Bridge did they hear the sweet, dull jangle of sound that told them that the ringers were practising their Christmas peal; it drifted through the streaming rain with an aching and intolerable melancholy, like the noise of the bells of a drowned city pulsing up through the overwhelming sea.

The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L Sayers.

Then came a wind and a rain, and the wind whipped the rain and hail about in every direction, so that an overhanging rock was no protection at all. Soon they were getting drenched and their ponies were standing with their heads down and their tails between their legs, and some of them were whinnying with fright. They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainsides.

The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

Though the hygrometer was within 33 ½ degrees of extreme dryness, or 66 ½ from extreme humidity, thick clouds formed round us, which obliged us to think of retreating: in a little time, the summit of the mountain was surrounded by them: they spread and covered the whole horizon: a premature night surprised us in a very dangerous road, and we suffered one of the most violent tempests I ever experienced, of wind, rain, hail, and thunder.

Thoughts on Meteorology, M de Luc

My troubles began when I joined my Highland battalion in India and had to have a batman from the ranks of my own platoon. No doubt I had been spoiled in India, but the contrast was dramatic. Where I had been accustomed to waking to the soft murmur of ‘Chota hazri, sahib’, and having a pialla of perfectly-brewed tea and a sliced mango on my bedside table, there was now a crash of hobnailed boots and a raucous cry of ‘Erzi tea! Some o’ it’s spilt, and there’s nae sugar. Aye, an’ the rain’s oan again.’

The Complete McAuslan, George MacDonald Fraser,

Happy Christmas, what’s your name?



I don’t know why writing Christmas cards makes me feel so gloomily apprehensive. I mean, it’s a simple task, isn’t it? You have a list of people, a box of cards, hopefully a working pen, and off you go. An hour later, maybe an hour and a half, tops, and you’re down at the post office buying stamps on an industrial scale (the price of which can be a bit of a jaw-dropper, I admit) but your faraway relatives are worth it, aren’t they? And then it’s all over and you can go home for a cup of tea and a Viennese fancy.

Only it never works like that. Not for me, anyway. Ok, so I have the list. I made it seven years ago, so that I didn’t have to spend ages going through my address book and separating card people from non card people. Do you send a card to that guy you used to work with, even though you haven’t seen him for three years? And if you do send it, do you put your surname in brackets afterwards, just in case he wonders who on earth you are? At what point do card people become non card ones?

The list worked brilliantly. For a while. I made it by collecting all the cards people had sent us one Christmas and compiling their names. This would solve the problem, I felt. And the next year, it did. Except that I hadn’t got the addresses for all of them. So I spent half my time writing cards, and a frazzling hour with my mother going through her address book (which she bought in 1972) and saying every page or so, ‘Oh, but he’s dead,’ or ‘Och, him. He became a nipple tassle salesman in Dumfries’, or ‘Did you mean Auntie Maggie with the camel fetish, or Auntie Maggie who went to live in Vancouver?’

Of course, as time has gone on, my list has gone the way of my mother’s address book. People have dropped off it. And new people have to be put on it. But their names are all in odd little places, and I haven’t been as efficient as I should have been, and oh hell, I know I put Jimmy and Miranda’s address down somewhere…


And then, even when you’ve written all your cards, you have (if don’t want to mortgage your children) to divide them into airmail, Royal Mail, scout post, and delivering by hand. First two; fine. Except that they entail going to the post office (and although I love my village post office, there is always somebody in front of me who wants to ask about the different ways of sending parcels of jam to Ormskirk, or Boggle Hole or Kirby Muxloe). And believe me, the Royal Mail have more ways of sending things than are dreamt of in your philsophy; First Class, Second Class, Sameday, Special Delivery – and is it a large letter or a small parcel with a wide option, (or even a deep option). Or just a medium parcel. And do you want a side order of chips with that? Oh, sorry, where was I?


With Scout post, you have to get to Oxfam or Sainsbury by a certain date, entrust your cards to a pair of earnest boys in woggles, and hope that all your addresses are within their remit. If not, back to the post office. Delivering by hand; that should give you a nice warm feeling, shouldn’t it? Festive trudging through the village, trees twinkling in the windows, church bells ringing, but no, because, obviously you’ve left it until Christmas Eve, there are a million and one things to do at home, and why didn’t you just shove the lot through the post? Why not indeed?

One year I decided not to bother. Nobody would notice, I thought. And, it would be one less thing to worry about. But as the days went along, and more and more cards arrived I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. People had made the effort to tell me they were thinking of me (even if it was only for a moment), and I hadn’t returned the favour. Even though I was thinking of them. And even with all the bother, I missed it. I missed having my mother tutting at me for leaving everything to the last moment (well, maybe not so much the tutting), and I missed making people feel I’d made an effort.

So, now I always send cards. I send them late (occasionally) I put the wrong address on them (blame my mother). Sometimes I get the names wrong (I’m thinking of the card I sent to a guy I used to work with – I got his wife’s name completely wrong. So wrong in fact, she accused him of having an affair. They’re divorced now.)

But, hey, I send cards.



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