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.


It’s been a year now, being retired, what’s different?

Is it time to have a wee mull over what’s changed since I hung up my chalk and bid farewell to the teaching lark?

Some of you reading this- assuming there’s anyone reading it- are contemplating retirement and you might even have gorn on a few ‘training days’ to get prepared.

I didn’t go on any, mainly as none were offered.

But tbh I was thinking; oh, this’ll be like August, only more of it!

I’ve tended to be one of those people that just assume ‘Oh it’ll be Fine, what can possibly go wrong?’ but I also have as a mantra: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Another one of my sayings is: If wishes were horses we all would ride.

So anyway, everyone told me ‘You’ll be so busy you won’t know how you fitted work in’ and ‘Make sure and get some pattern and routine in your life, like it’s Wednesday so it must be yoga at 11am’ or summat.

And I say unto you: Just like everything else in life, it’s different strokes for different folks, and what works for some won’t suit everybody, which now you read it, is of course and obv.

Some of the things that have changed about me, since last August:

  1. I don’t need to, so I won’t.
  2. I don’t have to listen to this, so I’ll kind of shimmer away.
  3. Don’t talk to me unless I talk to you first.
  4. Don’t give me advice unless I ask for it; and even then, I probs won’t follow it.
  5. Avoiding eye contact and unwelcome conversations because ( see the preceding).
  6. Isn’t it restful not to give a sh1t about being perma single? And why the eff did I waste so much time trying to be a couple. Bleugh. It’s very Zen indeed not trying to make someone else bearable!
  7. I am going to have a badge made saying ‘I just told you my name, why did you shorten it?’

So I guess that all sounds like I’ve become a pretty glum kind of hermit, but actually I can now decide who and when and how long my conversations last.

I find myself tunelessly singing while I dig up potatoes on my patch and find peppers growing in my poly tunnel with a joy that amazes me.

Hurrah for being retired.

Free at last, free at last, thank the Lord I’m free at last.

The laying on of bricks

Brimscombe is a rather unique place, dear readers, which is a converted factory in Stroud that used to be Damien Hirst’s workshop.

It’s now used both as accom for WRG which is ‘waterway recovery group’ which is quietly and rather ‘under the radar’ restoring the nation’s canals and a 2nd hand book shop raising money for same.

Have you seen the red vans with WRG on the sides? Were you aware, when walking towpaths, cycling or boating on canals, that WRG did its first shovelling in the 1970s? Motto: we didn’t know it was impossible so we did it anyway.

Photos exist of scantily clad muddy foolhardy enthusiasts with no H&S to be seen.

It is in fact quite risky work, what with working at heights, canals being deep, slippery, possible  purveyors of Weil’s disease,  and injuries with huge tools. Yes. And PLANT. Which is big Tonka machines, diggers and dumpers.

But nowadays we have personal protection gear to the max, including high vis to the point of radiance and hard hats and steel toe caps and plastic goggles and gloves. Sometimes all this schtuff feels a bit like overkill (!) but due to lime mortar it is needed. And as I got told, if we fall in, the high vis would help us be seen so we can get fished out, but please don’t as it makes a mountain of paperwork.

So I started with WRG in 2010 after being a NT volunteer before that, since the mid 80s.

These are called working holidays and I liked the idea of a *cheap* holiday and WRG is cheaper than NT, by almost half the price now.

People say, so you’re *paying* to do all that brick laying and wheelbarrowing?

Well technically I am learning skills from brick cleaning to wall preparation, dry stone walling, wacker plates, arbotechs, brick laying, mortar mixing..and the money pays for my food ( lots of it, and not cooked by me personally on a WRG camp, which is a big plus) and cake. And the accom. Which differs from NT accom in that you don’t get a bunk bed in a shared dorm (except for the Haybay  on the Chelmer which must qualify as best place to sleep on a WRG camp?)

Other drawbacks on a NT working week : you have to take your turn cooking on at least one meal, usually more. Plus the rota (same as on a WRG camp), so washing up, etc. And NO BURCO on site on a NT camp which is a HUGE wahhhhh for me, tea being vital.

I would say that the BIG plus for me on a WRG is meeting people like dear Rob, brick whisperer, time and again, but there again you have David, Margot and other adorable folk on a NT camp.

The basic standard of accom on both is not dissimilar , really, so think of a much used rather casually maintained but interesting historically ‘base camp’ so we’re not talking 4 stars. They used to be – and sometimes still are-village halls, so that will tell you.

Two showers at the most between 10 people? Often more than 10. NT tends to have more showers.

I actually prefer NOT sleeping in a dorm tbh as there’s always at least ONE mega snorer, one cougher, one getting up frequently bod, ( and it might be my own self doing all those!) one early riser and zipping and unzipping and lights going on and reading with torches that lights up too much, so it’s me outside in the van. Bliss.

So readers I hope you will consider the laying on of bricks for a week as a new experience- have I sold it to you?

Rebel with an Allotment

So on the 2nd of June I took over my allotment!

I was a bit apprehensive and very nearly said No when my name came to the top of the list, as I thought: I’m so busy already, how will I fit it in?

I’d been down and had a look, and it was overgrown and neglected *but* had rhubarb, apple trees and raspberries in a netted cage .Plus a view of the church, and right next to the  hedged bowling green ( endless odd unintelligible conversations, on the lines of ‘Good wood, Eileen’).

I met a few of the allotmenteers which was another source of trepidation, as what if they were uber bossy? But so far apart from Mr Scruff and Another One who I swear is assessing my value as compost material, they are either absent or silent, so all good there.

So I woke up  the morning after I’d said No and thought: I WANT this, so I rang back and it was very early but she was there, at the council, and I said Yes Please.

And I am so glad I did!

From the first forking of the weeds to the planting of our seeds and beans and coming to water every day and shrieking ‘Look! They’re growing!’ Much to our neighbours’ amusement. They also have been very generous with their surplus plants, so Yayy.

We’ve met birds, toads, frogs and slow worms, and three cats. And rescued a bird caught in the net of the raspberries. And had a bucket load of said rasps. Yum.

Everything tastes immeasurably different!

AND I now have a huge poly tunnel and am experimenting.
The radishes are just spectacular and magical.
STILL more raspberries, a ‘punnet’ or so every day.
I continue to build my raised bed which is hilariously inept, made as it is, of leftover bits of wood, all different sizes and rottenness, and with a dash of brio and zany DIY skills that caused a sharp intake of breath from my son.
But I’m enjoying it, so that’s all that matters.
And I’m learning HOW to be a driller, which is just wonderschon.
I planted a mint plant under the raspberries , and yes, I know it’s a thug, but it should be OK in there.
I’m having the best time doing What I WANT to do and ignoring all the books!
Yayy REBEL of the Allotments.
I read the packet and it says ‘sow in April’ and I think.. well, I only got the plot in June, so how’s that going to happen?


‘There’s just Too Much Politics At the moment’

In 1913  a woman who was determined to make her voice heard ran out at the King’s horse and was knocked flying and trampled.

She dies 4 days later, on June 8th.

June 8th is also the day we are having an ( unexpected ) General Election.

I wonder what Emily would think about the woman who said ‘Oh not more politics, I’m sick of it’.

Emily might also  be surprised that 9 million women didn’t vote in the last election, because :

‘they’re all as bad as each other’

‘my husband votes for us in this house’

‘I can’t be bothered with all that politics stuff’.

These might be the same women who look at the price of courgettes and say ‘Blimey, they’ve gone up’ or ‘Why are there no cheap oranges?’ or ‘I dunno why someone doesn’t do something about the state of the roads’ or ‘My nephew is in a class of 40 now and we got a letter asking us to help with buying text books’.

They might also be told they can’t have that knee replacement or catraract operation, and their Granny was on a trolley in A&E for 12 hours.

4,093 operations were cancelled last year.

Some schools have lost over £500 per pupil, which is why they had to make some teachers redundant, which is why…

but y’know.

Don’t bother voting, and don’t worry about it.

Although I wonder what Emily would say.