Light at the end of the Polytunnel

‘Light at the end of the polytunnel’

Being Uncoupled, a beginner’s guide.

Dear reader,

if you’re looking for a book on ‘How to grow successfully’ or ‘All about polytunnels’, this isn’t it.

What is it then? You might well ask.

Maybe I’ll start by introducing myself. Mother, failed wife, Drama teacher , now retired after 35+ years.. hang on, I just said ‘failed wife’ so that’s maybe a Huge One and what this book actually is trying to be.

What is a ‘wife’ and can we ‘fail’ at it, and if we do, how did we, and what’s all this pressure on us to be coupled and can we be happy as singled out?

Do we ask people ‘Are you married?’ as a 1st question, even if unspoken? And if they’re not, are we judging them?

Are some people destined never to be successfully coupled, or is finding your ‘Other Half’ ( shudder) all a massive cosmic lottery?

That’s a lot of questions isn’t it. Oh that was another one.

Ok so this morning I actually wrote on a bit of paper all the names of my past b/fs. I had to define boyfriend first..

It all felt a bit ‘Christmas carol’ like they’d all visit me and teach me lessons. (shudder)

Facts:-Twice divorced, twice engaged, but oddly not to either of the eejits one ended up matrimonied to. ‘’Married twice, two kids, that didn’t work out so divorced them’’ to paraphrase Police Squad.

Adventures with online dating. Hmm. Misadventures would be more accurate.

Case study one:Radio Wikkipedia. Let’s call him that rather than his actual name.

Description: this is an out of work, recently recovered from pancreatic surgery, rather pathetic type ( on paper) and as always my overactive maternal instincts kick in but once you MEET him that all evaporates faster than your precious perfume when spilt on the carpet.

This is a guy that TALKS (and please believe me I am not exaggerating), a sneaky glance at watch ( not that he’d notice) would show that his 1st subject ‘’The Airfields of Chelmsford’ ( why?) has been broadcasting relentlessly -and without even a sip of the lager I bought him- for 35 minutes.

On our 2nd date ( as I wondered if maybe he’d been nervous, so ever the optimist) I’d given a lift to town to my son, who actually *got out of the car and walked off* rather than listen any more to Said Bore. RW was oblivious, just as he had been when I tried to head him off ( 4 times) with the suggestion that he might *ask me something about me* this was greeted with a slight pause in his lecture and then: ‘You can tell me anything you might want me to know’ and then back we were again on ‘Tensile strength of climbing ropes’ or ‘How pigs differ from humans’, all unsolicited  and frankly alarming. I’d suggested in a text message that a series of signals might be needed, eg one tap for change subject, two for ask me something.. and so on. Ignored. He was equally relentless via texts, an avalanche that over rode me saying: ‘I’m driving so can’t reply’.

Other things that staggered me: when in my car he suddenly got my CD collection out of the side pocket, rifled through it, grunted, and chucked them back in, without commenting but clearly unimpressed. He then resumed whichever lecture he’d embarked on eg ‘Israel, then and now’, or ‘African rift valleys’ or ‘My operation and after effects’.

Description: THIN to the point of being worryingly frail, clicky shoes with steel Blakies ( remember them?) and the exact same clothes as in his photo on the site. On both dates. Some hair ,which he’d SELF cut; see the signs? And teeth missing. NOT attractive in any way, even if you could stand being talked at for hours on end. Oh and I forgot to say that a lot of things he’d said were actually quite nasty.

Eg ‘my Dad had a painting like that and when he dies I’m getting that as I put a sticker on the back saying it’s coming to me’.  My face on hearing this, reflected back at me in the glass on the painting, was , as they say, a picture, but he was as ever looking away.

My son  loved the moment when I suddenly said ‘I made this waistcoat’ hoping for a response. None. To which I said it again, Exactly same intonation: then he announced he had the mind of a butterfly and couldn’t keep his mind from wandering off, right now he was thinking about chipotle and its many uses.

Perma Single: a poem for the online man


Online man : ‘easy going’ you claim

I bet for you it’s more of an aim

as your list of demands is long as your arms

And demanding and tetchy are some of your charms

She must live nearby, her age must be less

She mustn’t have baggage , her house not a mess

‘Tactile’ you say, a phrase makes me nervous

Knowing it’s got an ulterior purpose

A licence to thrill or an insistence on cuddling

There’s a difference between them I find quite  befuddling.

Online man: you’re here to find love

You say that; but when push comes to shove

You want her next door and you don’t want to say

Travel’s for holidays  and not every day.

What if the ‘right one’ lives miles away?

She doesn’t look as she did in your mind

Her size rather curvy, her face may be lined

But she likes all the things you said you found groovy

Life is like that; we’re not in a movie.

We all lose our looks in the end

And what we want most is a bluddy good friend.



From my son: Yeah i read your last email. Looks pretty forking dire. I almost wish I’d seen the school play now, but im guessing it wasn’t even funny bad, just… hairpulling, frustrating, teeth grinding, hari-kari, airplane crash, please god let it end LET IT END bad.


Dating woes, sch, jeese. Men huh. Scabrous dullards. You’re better off without them. Not really much advice to give on that one, besides look to yourself for inner happiness. After all, if you aren’t happy with yourself, you can’t band-aid it with some boring man. As for Colin… eh. You might meet a decent enough bloke on the NT things, i shouldn’t worry.


Empty Nester. Day One.

Empty- nester, Day One.
So, we have now come to the empty nest syndrome experience. I will keep you updated on my daily findings. Last night as I drove away ( then got lost immediately and ended up going past the door he’d just gone in to) I felt ( obviously) a sense of ‘Blimey. so that’s the youngest off to new adventures, and my house will reverberate with the echoing silence of NO crashing, NO sound of a mighty Big Foot down the stairs like a barrel descending into the pub cellar; the almost beyond all reason loudness of the light pull being tugged beyond its strength, the sheer PRESENCE of that person and the volume of him. NO more picking up the scrumpled wet bath mat, which he insists he ”usually’ remembered to hang up to dry ( Never, dear readers, Never once). But obv. I will miss the sheer unique irreplaceable wondrous Unreason of Him. Those who have experienced this person need no further examples.

It is a very Empty Nest Indeed.

The parable of the poly tunnel

The parable of the poly tunnel.
Once there was a Patch lady with a rather slapdash construction of a poly tunnel which had said ‘Meh’ to the advice about digging a trench and making sure it was dug in and weighted down. And lo the winter winds came and blew and the poly t. was blown inside out and back to front and nearly off its frame.
But the PatchLady would not give in and slung ropes over and tied it to the hedge and got a net and staked it down and tied it to two earth filled plastic window boxes of great size.
And then got a giant sheet of plastic and added that to the inside so it was now necessary to crawl in.
And today the Patch lady looked upon her strange creation and said this:
”I was thinking I might give up on it and maybe not have one.
But I lashed it down and Heath Robinson’d it and staked it and tied it and added new plastic sheeting and it’s been a real battle to hold on to it.
And now I look at it and it looks a right dog’s breakfast but somehow I love it all the more”.
And maybe that story is all about not giving up on things, or maybe its about you should’ve done what it said on the instructions, you daft baggage.
I am telling you that story b/c I feel it has a message for us all.x


Physician cure thyself: an all new solution for the NHS

The great Nye Bevan’s vision must endure, as a base line.

We’ve all seen what happens in the USA if someone has not got ‘insurance cover’; they are turfed out in their hospital gown to wander the streets, or refused care, or both.

My pal in USA was charged $1000 per stitch. Many face bankruptcy, lose their houses and commit suicide b/c the ‘insurance companies’ don’t recognise their condition as being covered by the small print. Many folk suddenly come up against ‘pre-existing’ and are denied any funds, despite paying in for years at exorbitant rates.

OK so my proposal is that NHS is NOT for profit.

No outsourcing, no privatisation, which – well. NO. Carillion, say no more. Trains debacle? Answer is obvious. Privatising makes money for shareholders and the actual plebs can go fish. Literally sardined in the trains.

Alright BUT I do propose that after we get rid of PFI and outlaw all such profit making schemes, we May Need to Consider Some Payments made at some level.

We pay for glasses, dental and prescriptions.

We Might need to pay for GP appointments. IF we are earning. A small fee.I do NOT propose a two tier fast track system; children go free, OAPs also free. Unemployed, disabled, also free.

Secondly:  we need to free up some beds in hospitals so must reinstate convalescent homes and recovery centres/sanitoriums they used to be called, and long term mental health ‘villages’ which I’ve seen work well in some countries for Autistic or other folk who need one to one care; instead of driving carers all over the town and country and wasting time in travelling, lets have a wee village for long term one to one support needs; dementia patients, Alzheimers, and others who can’t cope living alone and need more than a quick 15 minute help getting dressed, then a day sat alone, dangerously vulnerable and miserable. So everyone has a room and there’s a refectory , games room, swimming pool. Pets! Gardens. Allotments.  A wee ‘village shop’. Carers live on site or in shifts. How many people do we have currently, isolated and dependent on a daily carer visit? I think this solution is actually *cheaper* as well as more humane, and the house the patient currently lives in could be sold or let for rental.

Thirdly: Some operations and treatments are not life threatening; would those people consider paying for them? I am thinking IVF, cosmetic surgery and other operations that would not mean the patient would die if they didn’t have them. Yes, they might be genuinely suicidal b/c of the situation, but would they consider paying? Please?

Fourthly: hospital stays: would people consider paying, if they could, for part of the cost? Or relatives bringing in the food/meals? These are all just ideas at this stage. Again I would NOT like to see any kind of two tier system developing, where some folk who were effectively ‘private’ were getting better treatment..

5. (I got sick of that ‘fifthly’ lark). There might be a day when we need to get people to pay for ‘self inflicted ‘ conditions eg tobacco, alcohol, extreme sports? I know, I know. We hate this one. But how often is the A&E full of sports injuries, drunks and weird sex ‘objects inserted’ scenarios? I actually don’t know the answer to that last question.

Obviously under that heading comes obesity, but until the day comes that extra sugar isn’t added to everything and joining a leisure centre costs money, bike lanes have priority and the car is used less; it doesn’t cost a penny to go for a swim and public transport means you CAN use a bus or train and don’t need a car! Yes so there’s a lot of work to do there.

Here endeth the lesson.. I welcome all comments and ideas.


Tap tap tapping

This chapter is ostensibly about the day my tap went kaputt and I went on facebook for advice and help, and a bit of sympathy, and maybe an offer of help from some Good Neighbour who would take pity on a DIY eejit who is barely   allowed to do the back fill bricks and is never allowed near the front stretchers. That’s a bit of a dig at the brick laying folk at the dear old canal camp restoration lark. As it goes I bet I *could* lay a brick but here’s the thing;  I seriously truly cannot bear to be ‘told off’ or ‘get it wrong’.

A little girl inside me that is always there and used to dread being castigated for her klutzness and ineptitude. And always was.

So anyway back to yesterday: having flagged up my distress I suddenly get a pm ( this is fb -speak for a private message) telling me to send the person my phone number. I already have a bad feeling about this like, who is this, no intro or niceties. So I reply: Hello is this X? I recognise the name, he’s engaged to Y. Then begins a series of unexpected and rather disconcerting exchanges on the phone. I hate speaking on the phone anyway, everything happens too fast and I get flustered and start babbling. So now I am in a nightmare of mine where I don’t know how to answer, I don’t know what sort of tap it is, I can’t reply quickly or accurately enough and get told to stop talking while he talks, which I guess would be OK except I didn’t initiate any of this, and actually wouldn’t be OK in any parallel universe I want to live in.

My stomach starts churning and I can feel a  fear and panic I haven’t felt for decades.

So eventually after trying to send photos and being ordered to find some on amazon to send I’m thinking- sorry why am I doing this? I didn’t ask for this- did I? Maybe I did? I guess if I send out a vague message asking for advice to the big www someone will assume I want to be told what to do, from a long distance, by phone. And get all narky with me and start issuing peremptory commands. Or that’s how it felt to me. I’m sure they are lovely and trying to help. Well, they are, but it felt awful.

Jeepers. The whole thing got me thinking a number of things:

  1. I really really hate being bossed about. Or told what to do. I guess everyone does but I can feel myself going into meltdown.
  2.  Why does X have to be like that? Was I making it happen because of how I was? Are they always like that? And aarghh
  3. Keep away from all men. Except for my relatives, the DWT folk, the BSC folk.. oh OK, a few men are OK then. Oh and my very great friend who came and fixed the tap today! Yayyyyyyyyyy

So the story ends happily, but I wanted to tell you how I felt.

Thanks for listening.



Black Country Bohemian

Ever fancied going back in time to the industrial heartland, where it was black by day and red by night? Hundreds of sooty chimneys and the clang and clank of iron works, furnaces, hammer and tongs..!

Picture yourself actually living in Peaky Blinders , complete with street side organ grinder twangling away outside the sweet shop where they used arsenic, beetle blood, cinders and all sorts to colour the sweeties. Red hot braziers by the canal bridge,and barges and the tram clanking by, privies with newspaper ‘toilet paper’ and cinder paths. Cobbled streets. You could actually meet one of the cast , or have a chat with the chemist before exploring his garden.

All the buildings are real and have been rebuilt and restored to the exact detail of a time gone by. Thirty acres of time travel, where you can go back to school and marvel at the fact there were classes of 40 with children as young as two. Write with a slate stick on a.. slate.

All the guides/actors are breathtakingly keen and well informed, and are genuinely bursting to get you as excited as they are. Hardware, tin and ironmongery. Bakers, grocers, clothes,’s all here.

I very much appreciated the hard hat while I was nearly bent double in the coal mine. What lives they lived! Short, hard, dangerous..badly paid! But a great sense of community. Families of ten in a one up, one down, with a pig and a wash house in the back yard.

‘How are you seeing what you’re doing without a light in there?’ I ask the smithy.

‘You has to have it dark so you can see if it’s the right red hot or not’, he offers, and then a long answer and I have to tear myself away because there is a whole town of amazingness here.

The 1953 bus; the workers’ institute, where you hear a very fervent account of the strike by women forced to work for wages that actually weren’t sufficient to feed their families..’sweated industries’, the Govt called them, without irony.

Plus ca change, eh?

‘Patch Rules’ a new political party

Hello and welcome to the first meeting of an all new political party.

We’re here because we’re pretty jaded with the current lot; although there are individuals we clearly doff our hat to; Mhairi Black being one such.

Ok so here’s the manifesto:

  1. All schools to be State schools and NO two tiers, no private schools where wealthy people perpetuate their privileges; this happens in Finland where paying for education is illegal so ALL schools are GOOD. Bit of a no brainer if you think about it for a minute. And it would solve almost everything in one swoop.
  2. Same law for health care. Everyone gets to use the same NHS and oh alluva sudden that would get sorted out pretty darn smartish.
  3. Legal Aid  must be reintroduced. It simply is Wrong to have Justice for the Rich only. And obviously is Unjust. Thank you.
  4. Use the wind, sea currents and tides to generate power. Like.. durr.
  5. Appoint some of these tax dodgers a problem each and they solve it using their ill gotten gains, or go to prison.Or get fined.  They can choose from homelessness, plastic pollution, youth unemployment, relocating industries or economic solutions for deprived areas, NHS, Rail network, lack of affordable housing.
  6. Religious bodies that own land get taxed on the land. And they are required to build a certain number of affordable houses on it.
  7. Roads and drivers. If you’re a very bad dangerous driver you will be banned. No dangerous overtaking. Only allow a new road user on when another one has stopped driving. Improve bus services. Trams. Return disused railway lines to cycle tracks. Thank you.
  8.  Get behind the initiative to pair up lonely old people and students needing accom. Again, a no brainer. Genius.
  9. Bullying must be stopped. Forever. Properly.
  10. No sugar added in everything any more and really cut down on sugar content in tins and packets. Really important.

Well that’s enough for now, with thanks to my contributors Colin and Iain.

*round of applause and mutual back slapping*

‘And all because the lady loves…’

Overheard by a bonfire, last week :

‘I’d rather not get on my knees and blow today, thanks’

In Stackpole, Pembrokeshire, which if you haven’t been is like The Shire by the Sea.

Driving from Doncaster where I’d been rather Catweazled by a few days without power or mod cons, to a VERY remote and far away land that used to be a HUGE stately home and over 30km of paths and two beaches, no three..

Cast of characters:

Kev:  muscular but largely silent and self deprecating squaddie, unfazed by locked doors and once he’s made his mind up goes for it. Enactment of ‘All because the lady loves’ for the 21st century. Can’t see what all the fuss was about, ‘wouldn’t we have climbed up to the bedroom window and posted ourselves in like a letter’?

Room entered by our future SAS hero, Eleanor and Adrian, the couple who make OXO Katie and her husband from the adverts come alive for us. ‘So there really are married couples who live in harmony’ apart from our genial almost fairytale leaders, who seem a cross between St Nicholas and  Gladys Aylward and Larry David ( in appearance) with Felicity Kendal.

Beatific and be-haloed, smiling serenely as all around is mud and persons expecting help ( ranging from failed light bulbs to dropped sausages).

Gerry, who wants to be seen as the sarcastic sage but is really a tea making genie. Also fire expert, but wanted no credit for his skill.

Gemma, feisty young career girl who is unflustered by her rather unpredictable life, with egos demanding trousers to be found that are inches away from them.

Julie, who seemed to be always laughing and was the queen of the dishwasher. This dishwasher guru was so immersed in it she even quizzed the chef at the pub about their dishwasher’s foibles.. !

Lovely John, who truly was easy going- you’ve heard of this quality but rarely seen it.

Moss, who had a huge smile on his face as each tree succumbed to his axe action, with an apparently inexhaustible amount of energy that necessitated a lengthy walk after a *fairly* demanding day of sawing, dragging, lifting and plodding through sticky mud with brash…

Sonja, the German gal, keen to improve her English and mentor to Moss, with that characteristic straightforward German straight talking which we find quite humorous, when compared to our general vagueness and tendency for understatement..

Example( from a categories game later that week):

Me: Hairy Pear?.. I’m not sure if that’s…

Sonja: No. Hairy Pear is not allowed.

So what were we all up to? Coppicing in woodland that has the stickiest squelchiest slippiest mud, which made dragging brash to the fire quite a challenge.

There I go again with my British understatement.

Once again we have a group that would never have met if we hadn’t all decided that Stackpole in Wales and working in woodlands and volunteering our services for the NT for a week at a modest cost for food ( delicious) and accom ( actually very wonderful , a single room to ourselves each instead of a dorm) sounded like a frabjous idea.

Which it was.

Rain and mud notwithstanding, we had a super time and I got to do the bonfire and came away with a stool that I had made  from wood I’d chopped, shaped and fitted together ( mostly) and Julie and Adrian’s help at the end when time ran out was MUCH appreciated.

Thank you all -and the Vikings Adam and Alex- for another amazingly ‘green gym’ working holiday.

The Naked Truth

… About Am Dram!


‘ ‘’The Giggleswick players do Full Frontal’’ by Valerie Goodwin, who KNOWS because she’s lived it!

The story behind the play!

All Am Dram groups seem to have *certain stock characters*- or they certainly do from my experience- I’ve been a member of about 15 different groups now ranging from BFPO to Southend and London to Edinburgh, so actually a pretty wide area has been covered!

  1. The wardrobe lady/ teas and biscuits/ back stage organiser, let’s call her Wendy. She doesn’t want to ACT but likes being ‘in charge’ although if you say so, she will quickly demurr. Knows everything about everybody and who last romanced who!
  2. The Oldest member, barely mobile and as for learning his lines- forget it. But very quick with a ‘last time we tried that was in 1991 and it didn’t work because it’s against fire regulations’. Always wants a part but .. oh dear.
  3. Larry, who seems to be in it so he can be backstage and ‘help’ with costume changes…
  4. Mandy, who does the full ‘rabbit in the headlights’ when on stage and totally freezes up.
  5. Kelly and Mitzi, two giggling girls who barely ever stop laughing and chattering, and have their mobile phones welded to their hands it seems.
  6. Anne, who ‘always directs’ but goodness only knows what her actual credentials are for doing it, she just always has! Never gives actual ‘notes’ except for ‘Learn Your Lines’ and ‘face Front’ and ‘Speak Up’. But no-one else wants to diect, do they?
  7. Faye, who is a rather older lady but insists on playing the ingenue parts, yes, she calls them ‘ingenue’; she thinks she’s Audrey Hepburn, but Mitzi says ‘Audrey Who? You mean the plant out of Little shop of Horrors?’
  8. Emma, desperate to escape her boring life and husband but keeps missing rehearsals because Jason isn’t well or Rob needs her to take his Mum to the hospital.
  9. Billy Elliott clone, who is a *dancer* and is only doing this in the hopes he can *dance* at some point, and ‘let’s not learn the lines and let’s improvise’ ( Shakespeare?) and where is he ? Oh, he’s nipped out for a fag..
  10. Tom, the lighting guy, who insists on using technical terms to impress you but can’t actually light the actors so the audience can see them, misses his cues, leaves the actors in the dark for a freeze that lasts for eternity and can’t just.. aaarghh. Also got drunk on one of the nights and was sick in his mic.

There’s many more.. check out the play ( available for a mere £10 from Smith Scripts) or come see it in Doncaster!

‘If I were you’ No, you wouldn’t.

Also titled: A non beginner’s guide to parenting

Or ‘It doesn’t get any easier, does it?’

Remember those days when they kept you awake at night.. oh wait, they still do, but now it’s because they’re on the night shift and don’t go to bed at 10pm like you do, and their music and *games* are so bluddy loud. Also they make a noise coming downstairs and using the bathroom like a barrel going into a pub cellar and emptying out. Or a capuccino machine. TMI? Let’s leave it there.

Gone are the days when your young chicks would leave the nest, because hey look, they can’t afford to.  rental properties cost almost a kidney nowadays, and as for *buying* their own place ( hollow laugh, like Vincent Price on Thriller).

So today I typed this: RANT alert. Please look away if you’re not a parent, or will be inclined to say ‘If I were you’ because if you think about it, if you were me, you’d have done what I did! OK here’s the situ. Numero uno needed money for deposit on flat so he can finally get his life on track. Asks his Dad for it, who replies ( after deadline for flat deposit was passed) that son ‘needed to have earned the money’ which tbh he never had to do as his own parents were TOTALLY and 100% backing him every inch of his life. So would’ve been one thing to make sure his son had the day to day support and emotional backing from him that was NOT there; helping him get a car, seeing him struggle with his studies and etc etc; day to day; but NOW to say ‘you should’ve listened to my advice.. oh wait, I never actually gave any day to day and wasn’t THERE much was I? Or at all, the past 7 years. So thank you to his Gran and thanks to me for raiding my piggy bank his son WILL get a chance to sort his life out but NO THANKS to pontificating ‘you should have earned it’ person, who oops, we’ve lost our key to the tardis, yeah.

Feel weirdly better for typing all that , other possibles would be: go down the patch and give it a damn good digging and imagine *putting stuff underground* that might do some better forking good as compost.

So back to the generic rather than the specific: the sheer 24/7 of parenting and the lifelong commitment is a bit like marriage but MORE than you can ever imagine as a beginner. You tell yourself,  I should’ve done X instead of Y, and folks say to you: ‘You’re too soft on those boys’ but  just remember, you are YOU and have no choice about being YOU, and they are what you made them because YOU are their genetic and environmental and shaping and ‘educational’  self, so they can’t help being what YOU made them. So like the words of the song, they’re your fellas and you love them, and all the rest is talk.

Here endeth the lesson.