Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

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End of the Month: March Madness with Nell Peters

It’s that time again! What wonders does Nell Peters have to share with us this month?

Grab that cuppa and get cosy!

Over to you Nell…

Morning all – and happy Easter Eve, on the ninetieth day of the year! I was going to say Easter Saturday, but apparently that’s the one that follows Easter Sunday. Not a lot of people know that, or maybe it’s just me. I don’t imagine too many folk will be around today, so who shall we be rude about? Perish the thought … although a few candidates spring to mind.

Anyone heard of the Bangorian Controversy? I confess I hadn’t. It all began when the Bishop of Bangor, one Benjamin Hoadly, delivered a sermon on 31st March 1717 to King George I. His focus was The Nature of the Kingdom of Christ, taken from John 18:36; ‘My kingdom is not of this world’. Hoadly’s interpretation was that there’s no justification in the scriptures for church government in any form, because Christ did not delegate His authority to any representatives. There are a few church bods who should perhaps take note? Whatever, obviously this was a pretty contentious viewpoint, hence the controversy bit – one of the main objectors being a chap called Thomas Sherlock (Dean of Chichester), whose name naturally appealed to my pathetic sense of humour.

The Bangor in question is the one in Wales, as opposed to County Down, Northern Ireland, which is why the item attracted my attention in the first place. If I had a quid for every time I’d passed through the station there, I could buy you all a slice of Welsh rarebit. This was while sons #1 and 2 were boarders at Indefatigable School, Bangor being the nearest train stop to the school’s location in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, although there is still a disused station there where tourists pose for pics in front of the sign. From Bangor it was a taxi ride over the Menai Suspension Bridge (Thomas Telford, 1826) to Anglesey and the seat of learning, housed in what used to be the Marquis of Anglesey’s sprawling estate. All very beautiful in the summer, but slightly grim during winter months. Llanfair PG (local shorthand) translates as ‘Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave’. Fancy that.

The one hundred and forty-two pupil establishment was run strictly in the naval tradition, with all boys and some staff wearing appropriate uniforms, and areas of the school referred to in nautical terms – most obviously the kitchens as the galley. All this was in homage to the original school being aboard a ship called Indefatigable, moored on the Mersey in Liverpool from 1864. In those days the ethos was to offer poor boys a home and education to equip them for a life in the Merchant Navy. Incidentally, it was on this day in 1972 that the rum ration in the Royal Canadian Navy was discontinued, and in the UK the official Beatles fan club (if I mention Yellow Submarine that’s a link to the sea-faring theme, right?) was closed – just thought I’d toss in those facts for good measure.

Where was I, ah yes – dry land Indefatigable sleeping quarters were called dorms (as opposed to cabins or similar) and there was a nocturnal fire in Raleigh House during #1’s residence. Try as he might, the Housemaster couldn’t rouse the boy as flames licked around ancient timbers, and ended up physically dragging him from his bunk (no hammocks!) Miraculously, no one was hurt and damage was contained. Said heroic Housemaster, Chris Holliday, was Head of English; he is now retired and enjoying a comparatively stress-free life in northern France with his dog, Einstein – we chat every now and again on FB. Chris and I that is, Einstein being more into Snapchat.

With grounds stretching down to the shores of the Menai Strait (Afon Menai), water sports and seamanship skills featured strongly in the curriculum, along with more mundane academic subjects. While #1 did well, became deputy head boy and left with a slew of impressive results en route for uni, #2 decided to buck the system and rebel. His biggest claim to fame – definitely one of his less bright ideas – was to lead a bid for freedom at the dead of night. Picture several thirteen year-old boys on foot traipsing down narrow, largely unlit, winding country lanes and over the bridge to Bangor, in a haphazard crocodile formation; those tiny roads are scary enough driving in daylight! When the intrepid ones reached Boots’ car park, inspiration deserted them and eventually a member of the public alerted the school – presumably, one of the lads was daft enough to wear part of the school uniform for ease of identification. The Great Escape that never was; I think I prefer the Steve McQueen version.

Coincidentally, some years before the sons’ time at the school, Super Blogger Anne Williams was studying at Bangor Grammar School for Girls, whose pupils used to be invited to Indefatigable school discos to trip the light fantastic with the older boys. What a weeny world this is, forsooth. The school is now occupied by the MoD, after it closed unexpectedly during the summer of the year we moved from London to Norfolk – and so after hasty negotiations, #2 went from being a pupil living several hour’s travel and hundreds of miles away from his school, to literally being over the road.

#3 was home for ten days at the beginning of March, catching up with his boss at the company’s UK base, as he does every now and again. He flew out of Bangkok in temperatures of 34 degrees C and landed at Heathrow early next morning in -1C and snow – nine minutes early after a thirteen hour flight.

Not too shabby, although he was with Thai Air and it was a dry flight because of Buddhist’s Day – something he learned to his horror only when he checked in and went off in search of his customary pre-flight pint of Guinness. From Heathrow, he then had a three hour drive back to Norfolk in scary conditions. The same day, a friend’s son flew from Germany to Heathrow en route for Edinburgh and his stag do. Alas, the guys were all stranded in London. Seriously? Air Canada pilots regularly land on six feet of solid ice!

While home, #3 did the usual rounds of brothers, plus nieces and nephews in his capacity as everyone’s favourite uncle – he spoils them rotten and lets them get away with murder. #4 had moved house since his big brother was last home and so received much gratis advice on interior redecoration; I didn’t notice anything as practical or exhausting as a paintbrush being wielded, though.

11th March was Mother’s Day in the UK and as has become a tradition, #4 arranged (for want of a better word!) my flowers in a lime green plastic jug thingy from Ikea, that the OH bought many years ago because he thought I’d like the shape. Shape is OK – hate the colour. When #4 was thirteen, he got his first pay packet from his paper round the day before MD, raided Tesco on his way home and put the flowers he’d bought into the Ikea jug. It was the first thing he saw as he charged through the kitchen en route for his room – where the flowers remained overnight, with his window wide open so they remained fresh. As if this house isn’t cold enough!

Our nomad (he’s getting far too much publicity in this blog!) flew back to Bangkok on 11/3, leaving at crazy o’clock in the morning. So, my celebration actually stretched from Friday night dinner, through Saturday lunch and on into Sunday, with various sons and their families appearing whenever they could, combining MD with saying adios to their brother. It was a brilliant weekend! Because he isn’t home for Easter (holiday in Sri Lanka, if you please!) I have had to warn him that the bunny may not have enough petrol in the Eggmobile to deliver his chocs. However, the annual Easter Egg Hunt will take place here, the Grands searching for spoils in what GD #2 refers to as ‘the dark forest’ – in reality a rather more mundane area of perhaps fifteen tall trees.

The Grand National has been run several times on 31st March, starting in 1905 (the 67th race) when it was won by Frank Mason riding Kirkland. The 116th race in 1962 was won by Fred Winter on Kilmore; 127th by Brian Fletcher on Red Rum in 1973; 133rd by Maurice Barnes on Rubstic in 1979, and in 1984 the 138th race was won by Neale Doughty on Hallo Dandy. Since 1839 the Grand National – a National Hunt horse race – has been run annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, with the exception of war years 1916-18 and 1941-45, when the land was requisitioned for military use.

It is a handicap steeplechase run over 6.907 km with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps and is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £1 million in 2017 – note to self: learn how to ride a horse, although at 5’9” I may be a little tall to be a jockey.

I know nothing about horse racing, but even I’ve heard of Red Rum (and Shergar, who disappeared in February, 1983!), the horse that holds the record number of Grand National wins – in 1973, 1974 and 1977, coming second in 1975 and 1976. Plus for sixteen years he held the record for completing the course in the fastest time of 9 minutes and 1.9 seconds. The race is notoriously difficult and has been described as ‘the ultimate test of a horse’s courage’, but Red Rum’s jumping prowess was legendary; not one tumble in a hundred races. He was retired before the 1978 National after suffering a hairline fracture the day before the race.

However, he had already become a national celebrity, opening supermarkets and leading the Grand National parade for many years. He even switched on the Blackpool Illuminations in 1977 – no mean feat with cumbersome hooves, I imagine.

When the horse died on 18 October 1995 (aged 30) it was announced in the national press and he was subsequently buried at the Aintree winning post, with an epitaph that reads, ‘Respect this place / this hallowed ground / a legend here / his rest has found / his feet would fly / our spirits soar / he earned our love for evermore’.

Multi award winning actor and Scot, Ewan McGregor celebrates his forty-seventh birthday today, although it may be a slightly subdued affair since he filed for divorce earlier this year after twenty-two years of marriage and four daughters, only to be unceremoniously dumped by his new love interest. Hey-ho. His film, TV and theatre credits are impressive, including Trainspotting, The Ghost Writer and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, plus later versions of Star Wars, to name very few. His maternal uncle, Denis Lawson appeared in the original Star Wars. McGregor is heavily involved in charity work, including UNICEF, visiting some of their projects during the motor bike documentaries he made with mate Charley Boorman.

Another actor born today is American Gabriel (Gabe) Kaplan – he’s seventy-three. In Montreal, I remember watching him in an American TV series called Welcome Back Kotter – he played the eponymous role of Gabe (no chance of forgetting his character’s name) Kotter, a teacher who returned to his alma mater in New York to teach a remedial class of loafers, called Sweathogs. As a member of the original group of Sweathogs, Kotter befriended the current bunch and over time got his unruly pupils to realise their potential. The Sweathogs’ unofficial leader was Vinnie Barbarino, a cocky Italian-American, fan of Star Trek and resident heartthrob of the group. The part was played by one John Travolta (pre Saturday Night Fever and Grease etc), who was in real life a high school dropout.

Our third and final thespian birthday is another American, Rhea Perlman, who is seventy. She is separated from husband Danny DeVito with whom she has two daughters and a son. At 5’0” she’d probably stand more chance than me of riding in the Grand National – and DDV is even shorter, although a tad overweight. Perlman’s career began off-Broadway in tiny parts until her first notable TV (recurring) part as Zena, the girlfriend of Louie De Palma (played by DeVito), in Taxi. But her most memorable role has to be that of wisecracking Carla Tortelli, waitress in a sitcom set in ex-baseball player Sam Malone’s Boston bar. And that’s my last word on the subject – Cheers!

Thanks for having me, Jen – not too many Easter eggs, now.




Huge thanks Nell- as ever. 

As if I’d eat too many eggs….wipes chocolate from chin…

Happy reading,

Jenny x


End of the month blog: June bustin’ out all over

It’s that time again! Let’s buckle up for another dip into Nell Peter’s end of the month reminisces… 

Hi Jen – and everyone else!

As the month totters to a close, was it a case of June bustin’ out all over? What does that even mean? When I was weeny, hearing the Rogers and Hammerstein song from Carousel on the radio, my lurid imagination pictured a rather buxom woman wearing a too-small blouse that strained at the seams to cover her modesty. Think Donald McGill postcards, or Beryl Cook-type painted ladies. In reality, of course, the lyrics refer to an exploding renewal of life for flowers and trees, plus all other things summery. Because I’m so easily amused, I’ll stick with my childish version.

June 2017 was not exactly a fun-filled thirty days. There was the General Election, rocking up on the 8th – as someone who typically shies away from making political comment, thereafter for me it came as a huge relief not to be bombarded with so many posts from others, championing their own particular favourite in the most blinkered, patronising and dogmatic fashion. Did they really think no one else capable of cogent reasoning, to weigh up pros and cons and sensibly make up their minds how best to vote? How very dare they? I’ll have them know I’m (thankfully) not as stupid as I look.

And the spats on social media if someone had the nerve to disagree! Some exchanges were simply amusing to those munching popcorn whilst indulging in a spot of spectator sport, others downright nasty. My lovely late brother-in-law used to vote Monster Raving Loony, because he couldn’t be doing with any of the other parties – he may have had a point. And at the end of the day, it’s probably fair to say nobody got the result they wanted, except perhaps the DUP, who must have thought all their birthdays came at once. That Arlene Foster looks a bit scary!

Before all the carnage at the Polls, #3 son made a brief, last minute trip home on June 1st to attend a friend’s wedding. Sadly, the date had to be massively brought forward because the bride’s father was given a short time to live. Son landed at Heathrow from Bangkok around 6 pm, got through customs and picked up a hire car to drive to Norfolk, stopping off at #4’s en route. To repay his brother’s hospitality, he broke the toilet seat in the downstairs loo before heading on here, arriving at gone midnight – the day of the wedding.

Up bright and early (well early, anyway) he sped off for a haircut and to buy a suit, shirt, tie and shoes to wear to the nuptials (he lives rather well on expenses and has grown out of the suits hanging in his wardrobe, playing hide and seek with the moths) – oh and a new toilet seat. As ever falling on his feet, Next had clobber packages on offer so he got himself sorted in record time, then back here, 2nd shower (can tell he’s been living in a hot climate), dressed, paraded for ‘does my bum look big in this?’ scrutiny, scribbled in a card and shoved in some money – all the friends did that to fund a honeymoon. Then he was gone, to pick up mate Charlie (also home for the occasion, but only from London – amateur!), leaving detritus and much dirty washing in his wake. Oh, and the huge open suitcase obstacle in the hall, guaranteed to cripple anyone entering the front door. By ten the next day he had returned from the venue, grabbed his stuff (including clean clothes) and left for Heathrow, to fly to Bangkok-Mumbai-Jaipur – rather him than me.

The first leg was a thirteen hour flight and #3 would have been roughly halfway through when Richard, a colleague of the OH, started walking across London Bridge with his brother-in-law (his wife being abroad on business.) They were minding their own business after dinner and drinks when a white van crashed and Richard ran toward it to help – I imagine when three men wielding very serious weapons leapt out he realised he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and decided to make himself scarce. He can’t remember; possibly not a bad thing.

He does vaguely recall sitting on the pavement, thinking he’d been punched and wondering where all the blood that was pooling underneath him was coming from – and why he couldn’t breathe. When he heard shots, he thought his end had come, but a soldier on leave had other ideas, pushed him down and lay on top of him to stop profuse bleeding from stab wounds that had penetrated spleen, diaphragm and lung; interesting but effective technique that they don’t actually teach at med school. And because of that soldier’s quick thinking, and the fact that he is super-fit, Richard will make a full recovery – physically at least.

Two days after that, I heard that my long-ago American friend James (Jim) Angel had died from Lewy Body dementia, a multisystem disease which, like all forms of dementia, cruelly turns the sufferer into an empty shell, a shadow of their former self. I knew that he had been diagnosed and was receiving treatment in a specialist care facility in Portland, Oregon – last Christmas a mutual friend sent me a photo of a frail, grey-haired old man looking blankly at Santa. He wasn’t much older than me. But let me tell you about the Jim I knew and adored (in a purely platonic way!):

He was a peace-loving draft dodger (Vietnam – can’t argue with him there), living in London with his first wife (also American and a trainee nurse), working at BA Heathrow as an aeronautical scientist.

About my height (5’ 9”), he wasn’t much less around his girth and had a Brian Blessed-type voice and laugh, though cuter because of the accent – especially when he called everyone ‘shit bag’ as a term of affection. Bearded with a mass of dark, curly long hair and always dressed like a scruffy hippy, his larger than life personality belied a pretty grim childhood; his father was an alcoholic and aged eleven, Jim discovered his mum’s body in the garage of their home after she’d shot herself. One can only imagine …

We didn’t share a taste in music – he Captain Beefheart, me far more prosaic stuff, but we did go to a lot of gigs, including Pink Floyd and Elton John, which he cringed all the way through. After his wife left him, he returned to the US and while I was living in Montreal, I flew to California and spent most of one summer there. It was a brilliant time – he bought a rust bucket car for touring and we camped in forests and on beaches (so cold, even in CA!), watching seals in the Pacific Ocean and collecting beautiful driftwood, which he thought he might turn into ‘something real neat’ when he got time. We also went skinny-dipping in creeks – my first and last time, as it’s me that creeks now!

The Chinese Exhibition was on in San Francisco and we queued for hours from dawn to see it – passing the time shivering and watching the mist roll from the hills to engulf the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, listening to eerie foghorns. When the time came for my return flight, I didn’t know I’d never see him in the flesh again, although we did communicate in other ways, but not for some years now. Fly high, Jim Angel – you are free.

After living with it at close-ish quarters for more than a decade, dementia has touched me (actually, more like hit me over the head with an iron bar!) more than usual during June, after my mother was taken to hospital following an early morning fall – although couldn’t remember what happened because she, like my father, suffers from the vascular form. So, off I went to sit on trains for four hours in order to imitate Florrie Nightingale on her less impressive days. Neither of my parents have any short term memory whatsoever and refuse to leave the house – they have a team of visiting carers to ensure they are fed, watered, clean and safe, most of whom are very good, a few not so much. Lately, my father spends all his time in bed and when he’s not sleeping, he’s barking orders through the house – he seems to have regressed to childhood, when the household retained several servants. Fortunately, the OH was able to base himself in Twickenham for the nine, very long, days that I spent chez folks, disappearing to Starbucks or the library to use the internet when required. Don’t tell him, but without his company and the very late dinners we shared in the garden when all was quiet, I would have quickly overtaken certifiably insane. My ears are worn out from conversations with medics and bods from all manner of agencies, many of whom contradict the others. Mum is home and all is quiet on the western front again – for how long, your guess is as good as mine.

In 2012, along with over three thousand other hopefuls, I submitted a radio drama script to the BBC Writers’ Room hoping to have it accepted for production.

My masterpiece made it through three weedings and made the final thirty, before it fell flat on its face at the final hurdle. I’ll leave you with an excerpt – Jack and Joyce are an elderly couple with dementia, and Glenda their long-suffering daughter.








JOYCE:                                           (REGISTERING) What on earth…? (LOUDER)

What are you doing out there, Jack? I’m making tea.

JACK:                                                   (OFF, MUFFLED THROUGH GLASS) I seem to have locked myself out, Majesty.

JOYCE:                                                You old fool. (HUFFING) Well where are the keys?

JACK:                                                   (OFF) I don’t know.

JOYCE:                                                Have you tried your dressing gown pocket?

JACK:                                                   (OFF) Erm…I’m not sure, I don’t remember.

JOYCE:                                                Well, have a look!

                                                                SFX: KEYS RATTLING THROUGH GLASS. THEN A KEY TURNING IN THE LOCK AND A DOOR OPENING.

JACK:                                                   I found them (LAUGHS) they were in my pocket all the time.

JOYCE:                                                What were you doing out in the garden anyway – you’ll catch a cold.

JACK:                                                   I went out to do something, but now I can’t remember what. Can I have a naughty, to warm me up? I don’t feel very well.

JOYCE:                                                I think I put the kettle on to make tea.

JACK:                                                   (LITTLE BOY SNIGGER) I’d rather have a naughty.

JOYCE:                                                Or did I make a pot of tea?

JACK:                                                   Is it Thursday today, Joyce?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know – have a look at the paper.

JACK:                                                   Where is it?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know. Shall I make tea?

JACK:                                                   Good idea, Majesty.

                                                                SFX: JOYCE OPENS THE FRIDGE. GLASS MILK BOTTLES CHINK.

JOYCE:                                                Oh dear; we do seem to have a lot of milk. Perhaps I should write a note for the milkman.

JACK:                                                   Why?

JOYCE:                                                No, you’re right – we’ll use it up, I expect. Or I’ll end up throwing it away…maybe I’ll put a note out next week.

JACK:                                                   What day is it today, Majesty?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know – is it Friday? I’m not sure… No, it can’t be Friday because the dustmen haven’t been. Or at least I didn’t hear them.

JACK:                                                   Do the dustmen usually come on Friday?

JOYCE:                                                Yes, except over Christmas and Easter – then you never know when they’ll turn up. (TUTS) Disgraceful, when we pay so much in rates, or whatever they call them now.

JACK:                                                   Did we put the rubbish out?

JOYCE:                                                Oh yes, I expect so. That doesn’t mean to say they’ll collect it though. They don’t always – probably because you didn’t give them a big tip at Christmas.

JACK:                                                   Is it time for a naughty yet? It’s for medicinal purposes; I don’t feel very well at all. I think maybe I should have stayed in bed.

JOYCE:                                                I wonder if the dustmen have been…or if we’ll have to wait until next week…

                                                                PAUSE FOR A MOMENT.

JACK:                                                   Do you remember my friend Ralph Windsor?

JOYCE:                                                Of course I do, Jack – he was your Best Man… and he had that nice wife from Scotland.

JACK:                                                   Scotland? I don’t remember that. Have we had breakfast yet?

JOYCE:                                                I’m not sure. Would you like some toast? I think we’ve got some bread left.

JACK:                                                   I fancy fish and chips…could we have fish and chips? Do you fancy fish and chips, Majesty?

JOYCE:                                                Someone has to go out and buy fish and chips and we’re not dressed. Anyway, I’m not sure if they’re open yet; shall I do some toast?

JACK:                                                   Okay, yes please. With marmalade…no, make it honey. I like honey, don’t you? And if I could have a naughty with it, that would be very nice.

JOYCE:                                                Now, did I make the tea? Or have we drunk it already?

                                                                PAUSE FOR A MOMENT.

JACK:                                                   My friend Ralph Windsor was a jolly nice chap…very clever. Is he dead, Joyce?

JOYCE:                                                I think so. Shall I put the kettle on?

JACK:                                                   Why did he die?

JOYCE:                                                I don’t know.

JACK:                                                   Very clever boy, old Ralphie. I met him when we were seven – he’d dug a hole in the woods and when he went home for lunch I played in it. He came back and we started fighting over whose hole it was. (LAUGHS) Is he dead, now?

JOYCE:                                                Probably – I don’t think we’ve seen him for quite a while. Wasn’t his wife from Scotland?

JACK:                                                   Was she? Is she dead now? Do you know, I must be getting old because I can’t remember.

JOYCE:                                                I think she went back to Scotland…his wife. I forget her name.

                                                                SFX: TELEPHONE RINGS OFF IN THE HALLWAY, CONTINUING.

JACK:                                                   Is that someone at the door, Joyce?

JOYCE:                                                No, of course not – it’s the phone.

JACK:                                                   Who is it?

JOYCE:                                                How do I know?


JACK:                                                   Aren’t you going to answer it, Joyce – I don’t feel at all well. I may have to go back to bed.

JOYCE:                                                (SIGHS) Looks like I’ll have to – I wonder who it is.

JACK:                                                   Poor old Ralphie…such a nice chap – and clever with it too. He had a very important job in the war – I remember he was on several convoys that were attacked by U-boats… (BEAT) Ralph’s father was a Regimental Sergeant Major, then a Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower – he looked magnificent when he was all dressed up in his uniform. A real gentleman…

                                                                THE PHONE STOPS RINGING.

JOYCE:                                                They’ve hung up! They didn’t wait very long…no patience at all some people…Never mind – if it’s important they’ll ring back next week.

JACK:                                                   That’s what my dear old mum used to say. I think it was her, anyway.

JOYCE:                                                There was nothing ‘dear’ about your mother – she didn’t think I was good enough to marry into her precious family…Huh! Would you like a cup of tea? I could put the kettle on.

JACK:                                                   Yes please, Majesty – unless I could have a naughty instead? I feel a bit rough – I think I should go back to bed.

JOYCE:                                                Well go back to bed, if you really think you should. I’ll make tea.

JACK:                                                   I remember meeting Ralph’s dad on the station once – he was all dressed up in his regalia. Magnificent – I felt I should salute him. Pucker gentleman, he was.

JOYCE:                                                What did you have for breakfast?

JACK:                                                   Damned if I can remember. (BEAT) Is it Monday today?

JOYCE:                                                I expect so. (BEAT) What do you fancy for lunch? (BEAT) I really must get my hair cut – I’ll make an appointment next week. (BEAT) I think I’ll get a shower now.



JOYCE:                                                (FROSTILY) Oh hello; it’s you, Glenda. I wasn’t expecting you – is it Saturday today?

GLENDA:                                            Yes, it’s Saturday. I tried ringing earlier – but there was no reply.

JOYCE:                                                Oh, I was probably out shopping.

GLENDA:                                            (VO) Pull the other one – you haven’t been out shopping since Elvis was breathing. (TO JOYCE) Never mind, I’m here now – shall I put the kettle on?

JOYCE:                                                What a good idea, I fancy a cup of tea. So, how are the girls? We haven’t seen them for a very long while.

GLENDA:                                            (TO JOYCE) Chloe was here in the week, Mum. She made you a nice chicken casserole. (VO) Stop wasting your breath. (TO JOYCE) They are all fine, thanks, except Claire’s a bit worried about these ‘A’ level exams she’s got coming up. If she doesn’t get the grades, she won’t get into her first choice of university so she’s panicking a bit.

JOYCE:                                                That’s nice dear – just hang your jacket on the banister and we’ll go on through to the kitchen.


JOYCE:                                                Ooh – is that something for me?

GLENDA:                                            I picked up a few bits and pieces on my way here – we’ll make up a proper shopping list in a minute, while we’re having tea. Where’s Dad?

JOYCE:                                                Oh…um…he’s around somewhere. Or maybe he went shopping.

JACK:                                                   (OFF) Is that you Glennie? I’m just up here getting dressed. I haven’t been feeling too well…


Another corking blog. Thanks Nell- especially for taking the time to write this wonderful piece when you’ve had such a testing month!

Great script!! You should resubmit it.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

End of the Month Blog from Nell Peters: Amazing April

It’s that time again! Nell Peters is here, and she has produced another corking end of the month round up for us.

So, pop the kettle on, settle down, and have a read!

Over to you Nell…

Hello, possums!

That cringe-worthy Dame Edna intrusion was unsubtly included so I could link to something that caught my eye, while I was researching 30th April events – ergo, a New Zealand racing driver called Possum Bourne died on this day in 2003, while driving non-competitively.

Possum! My imagination soared into flights of fancy about the possible monikers of other family members – maybe dad Giraffe, brothers Weasel and Aardvark, sister Panther (better than Cougar!), and Granny Meerkat, to name but a few – before I Googled him and found to my great disappointment that Possum was in fact a nickname for the rather more prosaically named, Peter Raymond George Bourne. Drat. Peter became Possum after he crashed his mum’s car, while trying to avoid a possum in the road. How deflating – hopefully not literally for the daredevil possum. Incidentally, there were three children from Possum’s marriage to Peggy (boring!) – Taylor (meh), Spencer (meh) and Jazlin (much better!)

Winging back to Barry Humphries’ alter ego, my late father-in-law was Australian and when he married and settled in London (for about a decade, before the family upped sticks for Johannesburg) his mother, Marjorie, decided to follow (possibly the reason the rest of the family fled the UK for SA) – leaving her second husband to contemplate his navel in Sydney. Marjorie was Dame Edna personified – complete with the glasses – and her accent could grate cheese (not to mention nerves) from a distance of several thousand yards. She was a strapping Sheila and mega pretentious – slightly incongruous in someone whose dress ‘style’ was not so much shabby chic, as thrift store reject. The abandoned husband was called Horsfield (the first spouse having expired at an early age, possibly from embarrassment and/or burst eardrums) and predictably the OH and his siblings called their grandmother Gee-Gee, which Marjorie romanticised to Gigi. Most ridiculous of all, ‘Gigi’ used to colour her hair (or mane) the darkest shade of unnatural brown, because she was ludicrously vain and lied outrageously about her age. Actually, she lied outrageously about everything – quite an interesting psych study, if you like that sort of thing. I think I’ll stick with serial killers. Gigi was in her seventies when I first knew her and her face was deeply lined and wrinkled, presumably from the Australian sun, so that she looked every minute of that – and beyond. Not even the most gullible myopic would have been fooled by that OTT home dye job, but her egocentric nature would never let her contemplate as much.

Ray Polhill – My brother in law

Enough of the loony in-laws – though I do have enough material for several books, so watch this space. To be fair, however (and to the best of my knowledge) none of them have ever been banged up for murder – unlike actor Leslie Grantham, of Dirty Den/EastEnders fame, who celebrates his seventieth birthday today. It was while he was serving a ten stretch in Leyhill Prison, that Grantham became interested in acting as a career, after appearing in several inmate plays. On release, he studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art – my ex brother-in-law went there too, but not at the same time. (The ex-b also appeared in EastEnders briefly – as a barman, plus he was footballer Wayne Farrell in Corrie. I’ve played footie with him in the garden and he’s rubbish! He’s perhaps best known as the biker in 2.4 Children.) I’ve only ever seen EE twice – Christmas specials when one of the daughters-in-law was staying and insisted that everything stopped so that she could watch the box. Cheeky! As I remember, it was guaranteed that a character or two met a grisly end, which doesn’t truly embrace the Christmas spirit.

Sharing the birthday are Merrill Osmond (1953) – yes, one of those Osmonds, New Zealand film director Jane Campion (1954) and Canadian actor, Paul Gross (1959), who played RCMP Benton Fraser in Due South. On the very same day, Stephen Harper was born in Toronto – he grew up to be the twenty-second Canadian Prime Minister from 2006-15. When I lived in Montreal, Pierre Trudeau was PM – now it’s his son, Justin. Good grief, I’m ancient!

Talking of leaders – OK, dictator in this case – Adolf Hitler picked this day to commit suicide by gunshot in 1945, ten days after his fifty-sixth birthday and shortly before Germany’s unconditional surrender in WWII.

His new wife, Eva Braun also committed hara-kiri by munching a cyanide capsule – I wonder if she had a choice? Quotes from the megalomaniac include, ‘Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.’ Plus, ‘If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.’ And finally, ‘He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.’ All of which are horribly prophetic.

Poignantly, Anne Frank’s diary was published in English on 30th April, 1952, initially entitled The Diary of a Young Girl – an account of a Jewish teenager living in hiding with seven others, all fearing for their lives in occupied Holland. The book first came out in Dutch in 1947, under the title Het Achterhuis (The Secret House) courtesy her father Otto, who survived the concentration camps – but as we know, Anne died before her 16th birthday in 1945, in Bergen-Belsen.

1492 is a year that should ring bells with anyone who has ever opened a history book, and on this particular day, Italian maritime explorer, Christopher Columbus was given permission to equip his fleet of three ships – the Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina – after signing a contract with the Spanish to set sail for the ‘Indies’, in an attempt to find a western route to Asia. Born a Scorpio, (30th October, 1451) and if you believe astrological profiles, CC was a good choice for the voyage of discovery, being passionate, decisive, assertive and determined. If typical of the sign, he should also have been a good leader, who researched until he found the truth. Scorpio is a water sign – just as well, for someone who navigated the oceans blue.

En route for the New World, the fleet docked in the Canary Islands before sailing on to island-hop around the Caribbean, discovering all sorts of places that are now exotic holiday destinations, having failed to spot Florida when they changed course. Well, no one is perfect – perhaps the Sat Nav was playing up. On Christmas Day 1492, the flagship Santa Maria ran aground and sank on Hispaniola – perhaps not the gift from Santa they were hoping for – and on Boxing Day (though it didn’t yet exist and was merely 26th December) Columbus founded the first Spanish settlement in the New World, La Navidad (now Möle-Saint-Nicholas.) This was the first of his four expeditions to the New World; the last cast off in 1502, four years before he died in Spain, on terra firma.

The Watergate Affair (see what I did there?) began in June 1972, when five men were arrested in the early hours, breaking into the Democratic Party’s Watergate headquarters in Washington. They were caught with photographic equipment and bugging devices, and during the following months connections between several of the suspects were made to parts of the Republican power structure. This day in 1973, Richard Milhous Nixon (President, Republican, and aka Tricky Dicky) took full responsibility for the operation but denied any personal involvement. Well he would, wouldn’t he, to slightly paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies of Profumo Affair notoriety. In a speech broadcast to Americans he vowed to get to the bottom of the matter, famously saying: ‘There will be no whitewash at the Whitehouse.’ Nice one, Tricky!

There were resignations and sackings galore, culminating in Nixon’s own resignation in August 1974 – which saved him the embarrassment of being impeached. God bless America … Oh, thought I’d just mention here that the Vietnam War ended on 30th April 1975.

Staying across the pond, while Nixon was the 37th President of the US, on this day in 1789 George I-Cannot-Tell-A-Lie Washington was inaugurated as the first, at Federal Hall in New York City – which was at that time the capital. Descended from English gentry, George was born in colonial Virginia to Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary, who were wealthy owners of tobacco plantations and slaves. He followed a glittering military career before turning to politics, and was unanimously selected for the presidency by the Electoral College. He swore the oath ‘I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ and then ad-libbed the words ‘so help me God.’

Washington was privately opposed to slavery and introduced The Slave Trade Act of 1794, which restricted American involvement in the Atlantic slave trade – upon his death (Dec 1799), his will made provision for the manumission (freeing) of all his slaves. Of countless tributes paid to him, his likeness is one of only four carved in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial, and the 554’ iconic Washington Monument obelisk stands in the now-capital, Washington DC near the White House – plus, he remains the only president to have a whole state named after him. I think Donald Trump might struggle to emulate the honour, failing to score even an eponymous hillbilly town, let alone state. Apart from any other consideration, who wants to live somewhere that pays homage to the bodily expulsion of gaseous waste? 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd) gave an official address on 30th April 1939 – just four months before WWII began – when two hundred thousand visitors attended the opening of the New York World’s Fair. The speech was not only heard over radio networks, but was also shown as the first ever television broadcast. I hope FDR was wearing his best suit. The theme of exhibits was ironically ‘The World of Tomorrow’ – General Motors went for ‘Futurama’, Philo T. Farnsworth displayed TV sets, AT&T debuted its picture phone, and the IBM pavilion featured electric typewriters, plus a new-fangled machine called the electric calculator, that used punched cards to enter information for a computer to calculate results.

Never the shrinking violet, Salvador Dalí designed a pavilion called Dream of Venus, built by architect Ian Woodner. It had a facade full of protuberances – including crutches, cacti and hedgehogs – very vaguely echoing the Pedrera building by Antoni Gaudí, and the main door was flanked by two pillars representing female legs in stockings, wearing stilettos. Perhaps Damien Hurst isn’t so bizarre … Through openings, visitors could see reproductions of Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, while once inside, they could watch aquatic dance shows in two pools, with sirens and other items designed by Dalí. Believe it or not, organisers had insisted on major modifications to the artist’s original blueprint – the mind boggles.

OK, I’ve made quite enough of an exhibition of myself, so with thanks to Jen for having me and readers for dropping by, it’s ‘G’day’ from Gigi and ‘Adios’ from Salvador!




Another blogging triumph! Thanks Nell!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx 


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