Monday, 31 January 2011

My Grandmother

was a countrywoman from Devon, and among other advice from her country lore, told me that the milky sap from a common garden weed, known as spurge, would get rid of small skin tags and warts. I followed her advice and used it for years. Only on small problems as it is quite toxic, and probably not a good thing to use on anything but a tiny problem.

Anyway, I now discover that it is being investigated for possible treatment of non melanoma skin cancers.

Granny knows best.

Can't Give It Away

Dear me. Had the bright idea to give my corpse for medical research, but it is unlikely to be accepted if 'any major organ' has been removed. Well, I have had the odd ovary and a gallbladder out, so it just shows that if you have been subject to surgery, it may be impossible to give your body away. We shall see. Given the shortage of bodies you think they would be grateful for anything they could get: arms, legs, heads etc. would be quite useful when teaching I would have thought, but what would I know?

My main reason for this was to save the awful stuff around a funeral, and if my heirs!!! wished to have a form of celebration, nothing would stop them having a party and cracking open the champagne etc. They could use some of the vast amount of money which would otherwise be spent on even the cheapest funeral, currently running to nearly £2000, so I am given to understand. I shall enquire further about the organ thing, but would encourage others to donate their bods, after all, you won't miss it when you're gone - and relatives should be public spirited enough to understand.

There were lots of more lively bods (see snap above) at the local community centre for their annual party. I arrived and Simon Hughes was there with the deputy council leader. Our Chairman also came. The party had been run for many years by one of our trustees. Exhausted by all the goings-on I escaped before the lady Morris dancers and raffle had started.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Norman Rockwell and large mirror

Madeleine pitched up, and after a quick coffee we set forth, her satnav giving us an interesting, but eventually successful route to Dulwich Picture Gallery. I must say they do an excellent lunch there: I had chowder with large prawns, mussels and lots of fish, and Madeleine had grilled chicken with sweet potato cake. Then we had to queue, as the exhibition was very popular. It was very good to see Madeleine again.

I can't think of anything particularly clever to say about Norman Rockwell. My first introduction, as I probably said, was seeing the Saturday Evening Post when a child in Trinidad, where we were more likely to come in contact with American magazines than English ones, so I was familiar with cartoons such as Lil Abner and Sparkle Plenty and only later acquainted myself with the Beano and Dandy, after our return to Blighty. Meanwhile Norman Rockwell never ceased to astonish us with his inventive and very lively covers. The other artist illustrator whose work I saw was the wonderful Mr Watkins, who drew Oor Wullie and the Broons for the Scottish Sunday Post. Such great draughtsmanship.

I have to say I had not realised how early Norman Rockwell started working, and how long he carried on. I did quite like the small amount of work I saw at Dulwich from his older years, such as the classroom of Russian children, and I have also seen postcards of his moon landing paintings. For his card player cover, it was amazing to discover that the photographer had to stand on a plank to snap the players for the painting.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is a really good place. I must get back to see the permanent collection one day. It would make a good outing on a summer Sunday.

After the rather excessive consumption of the last couple of days, I gingerly stood on the scales. Sunday always feels like the day of judgment. Anyway I actually lost a pound and a half, so, folks, calorie counting does work. Having a daily total of 1200 calories, if a weight loss amount is 1500, gives a margin for error when calculating the calories, since the human inclination is to underestimate these. I think the most helpful thing, though, is the huge mirrored screen by my door, in which I see a vast and unfamiliar view of my still gigantic body. This really works.


Decided to paint the fire surround greige. The final mixed colour was more green but I was undeterred. Unfortunately I was optimistically wearing a new cashmere jumper, which, when I glanced down, had become adorned with a huge blob of paint. Rushed upstairs, stripped it off and rinsed it under the cold tap. Then, garbed in an old cotton nightie, I finished painting. I have to say I don't much like it. I may paint it white again.

Meanwhile I may have ruined my nicest cashmere jumper, and need to find another to wear for my trip with Madeleine today.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Fun, Fun, Fun - and Big Woman Blues

Yesterday, we did the marathon trip, i.e. three coaches and a small extra one, plus a specially adapted car or two, and transported at least 150 people to Brick Lane Music Hall, which is in a converted church near City airport.

There, we had an excellent lunch, followed by a very good politically incorrect pantomime 'Mother Goosed'. Much fun was had by all. Five of the seven trustees came to help us, and we were able to offer places to several other local charities, too. Romy, having organised the whole event with great skill, was splendid throughout, rushing around and sorting people out, while I stood back, stunned by the vast crowds of pensioners present. The Bus Pass people from Waterloo Action Group actually made their own way there, using the DLR, so congratulations to them.

A great success, though I have to confess that the lunch was so good that I did overindulge somewhat. I managed to forego Yorkshire pudding, but then succumbed to apple crumble and custard, fortunately a fairly small helping. Today, Madeleine and I will go to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and have lunch. I am rather dreading the weigh-in tomorrow, and fear the thin woman within me will never emerge. We shall see.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Strange Soup

Two good things: Dorothy's trip to India has been postponed for a week so the anniversary can be celebrated on the day. Also, Madeleine has offered to take me to Dulwich Picture Gallery so off we will go on Saturday. Also found my Art card thingy, which will reduce the entry price.

Invented some haggis soup: haggis opened up and cooked in stock with added tomato puree and more spices. After letting it go cold and skimming vast amounts of fat off the top and thinning it with more water it is less disgusting than it sounds, particularly when served with a generous sprinkling of parmesan. I shall be dining on haggis soup for the next couple of nights.

Romy has been slaving away all day on the very complicated summer holiday arrangements for the punters involving three dates, three destinations and three coaches, looking at levels of ability, and keeping close friends together. I think she has been very successful, but only time will tell. I could only stand aside and wonder at her gargantuan efforts.

I now have to find out about possible cat sitting arrangements for at least a couple of the dates. Romy suggested I could possibly find someone to combine cat sitting with a bit of gardening or decorating if Julian is unable to do it. We shall see.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Drowning Moth

This morning I found a tiny moth in a glass of water. I emptied it into the bathroom sink and thought it might dry off and struggle out as the water ran off. After a minute it still looked stuck so lifted it quite carefully out, but it was too late. Can't even save a moth. No wonder Kook is so discontented with me.

I still want to see the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, but it looks rather a long journey without a car. There's also something on at the NPG, and I keep meaning to stagger up to the War Museum. I really must try and organise myself to do stuff.

Dorothy goes to India on Friday for a week. It is Dorothy and Julian's anniversary that week so the timing is not great. I hope the trip is a success, and will look forward to Dorothy's return.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Weekend and Monday

Very quiet weekend, with only a visit from Penny. We have arranged to go to a wine tasting through Groupon, and had to confirm the dates. Penny admired my fire and told me more about her family and her current situation. She has now started to make social arrangements to fill up her time, and indeed this has proved so successful that we had a problem finding a date for the wine tasting.

Today I painted the fire space black inside, but only a little, and will take it further later. I am thinking of doing the immediate surround a kind of greige for the time being.

On Sunday I purchased a couple of fillet steaks from Marks, which were excellent Aberdeen Angus steaks. May well buy these again. I also bought some tiny chocolate meringues, which were only 15 calories each, and very good with coffee or tea. I also found some more cantuccini in the pound shop, so bought a couple of packs of these, which will last for ages.

This afternoon heard about a bomb going off in an airport in Moscow. Sounds like a suicide bomber. Really awful, quite a few killed and many serious injuries.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Thor's Day Night

Started with the excellent fish mixed grill at Applebee's in Borough Market with Romy and her husband. We then went off to the Greenwich Printmakers exhibition opening at the Olivier. Lots of very good work on display and Romy purchased a print, lovely print of birds in water, the image had been used to advertise the exhibition. By this time Romy was in the mood for carrying on with the evening, since it was quite early, so we leapt into a cab and went to Ronnie Scott's. We went upstairs where there was a very jolly band: Dom and the IKO's, kind of New Orleans R & B. Slightly carried away, we started on the cocktails, then went downstairs for something to eat and to listen to some more serious jazz. This was super, but we eventually tore ourselves away at about 1.45am.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Thor's Day

Dreary weather again yesterday. Groupon eventually emailed me the other voucher saying they had already sent it, but checking all my mail and junk, it was not there. It is annoying when people can't admit a mistake.

Boiled a Sainsbury's stew pack last night in lots of water, adding chorizo, garlic, and plenty of seasoning - also celery, mushrooms and tomato puree, and found some juniper berries. Ate some of the cooked vegetables etc for dinner, and will cook some dry pulses and add these later. Comfort food in this weather, which seems to be turning a little colder again.

Madeleine is hopeless and beset by distant and unwelcome relatives, so I shall leave our dinner date for a bit. Meanwhile I have arranged to meet two good friends from college in a couple of weeks. We shall go for a Sunday lunch. Roast might be a good idea. I shall give it some thought.

Call from Dorothy who is going to India at the end of the month. Fortunately only for a week, since Julian is staying at home. Perhaps Julian will come around and play with the Kookster in Dorothy's absence.

I am currently reading E. V. Lucas. A Boswell of Baghdad with Diversions which is a collection of essays. Eminently suitable reading matter for an oldie with a short attention span. I see the Kindle edition of this is very cheap. Perhaps I will purchase a Kindle. We shall see.

Enormous Shard Rising

Romy bought me lunch at Black and Blue. Had an excellent ribeye steak with salad and a glass or two of wine. My birthday treat. We noticed that the Shard is rising fast, completely changing the skyline, not necessarily for the better, but I imagine we will become accustomed to it.

Groupon, from whom I successfully purchased a cleaning voucher, have since been bombarding me with offers. The day before yesterday I purchased two vouchers, one for a friend, for brunch at Le Bouchon Breton. However, only one voucher arrived. Ringing them up, there was only an ansaphone which said to contact them by email which I did. I am very concerned about this since they have not refunded the money for the extra voucher, nor have they sent me another voucher, so I would very much doubt whether I will use them again. Rather worrying.

Long telephone call last night from one of Julian's tutors, now retired. He will be travelling to France to catsit for a friend for a week. He counsels against retirement, but seems to be enjoying himself 'doing up' a Rolls Royce and a motorbike.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Foul Times

it has been drizzling all day outside - so boring.

My horrible neighbour accosted me again, but this time to tell me that an elderly neighbour had died recently. They are dropping like flies in our street, but then, given the ages, it is hardly surprising. The recently deceased woman was a very pleasant Irish lady whose flat was always immaculate, and quite put me to shame at Baglady Sluttery, aka Towers.

Lunch at Lye Torng just for a change, and shall do a bit of washing and slob around for the rest of the day. Did consider a visit to the War Museum, but very offput by the crap weather. Made another jar of preserved lemons, and promised one to Penny when they are ready. Book yours here!

I do hope Madeleine enjoyed her birthday tea. She has yet to get in touch about her choice of restaurant, date etc. for her birthday dinner. Come on, Madeleine. When I got depressed about my birthday my ex used to point out that I was only one day older than the day before. One of his few cheering comments.

Winning over 50% of scrabble games and only using the best word feature very rarely, so progress is being made, and many hours of time lost mucking about with this, but it keeps me from getting bored and elevates the blood pressure, probably.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

It's Me Again

Found a text on my mobile yesterday from my Christmas Eve hostess. I shall call her Penny. She proposed meeting up, so, a creature of habit always, I suggested the Lye Torng, where I was due to have lunch anyway. After I had relaxed with a coffee and the papers, Penny arrived, and we had another coffee and a chat. After lunch we repaired to Baglady Towers for more chat and more coffee. Penny told me about her family and background, and revealed details of her rather large property portfolio. I suspect she is a rather astute businesswoman on the quiet. Though Penny is very different from me: much younger, a veggie, a bit of a leftie, loves to walk, etc., there are some interesting family parallels in both of our past lives, though she is so much more serious than me. Sometimes I am quite glad to be a mindless superficial consumer. I showed her some of the excellent Groupon deals and agreed to let her know when anything brilliant turned up and she threatened to take me on a walk to see her favourite sculpture by the river somewhere in Southwark.

Today I discovered that I had lost another four and a half pounds - yippee - only another eight stone to lose! When I retire at the end of December, I shall have to become less of a consumer since my income will be minuscule. I am already trying to think of ways to supplement this, so far unsuccessfully, but we shall see.

The Scrabble thing is becoming rather dire: having thought I was the least competitive person in the world, I have become totally addicted to trying to beat the computer, so the games are getting longer and longer, while my walnut brain tries to win games. I have now managed to win a few, but it is a frightful waste of time.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Owl and Pussycat

Well, yesterday was partly successful, in that I managed to pick up my glasses with new lenses, but the key shop had no blanks for my keys, and these will apparently arrive on Monday. So I shall go back then. Lunched at Lye Torng on an excellent chicken green curry.

In the evening, Dorothy and Julian came to collect some post and keys on their way out to dinner. Dorothy also fixed my i-photo, I think, and showed me how to open the scrabble game they had sent me, also transferring this to my mobile.

I have been playing scrabble for hours. such a time waster.

I snapped this intriguing owl and pussycat in a street near me. I would like to know more about why they are there.

Friday, 14 January 2011

City Ice

Romy and I went to an investment meeting at Canary Wharf. Though rather soulless, the place is quite impressive. We found masses of shops in underground caverns, and before our meeting, we saw the beginning of an ice sculpture competition and took some snaps. Unfortunately, technology has failed again and the snaps have refused to transfer from my camera to my laptop. I tell a lie. Dorothy has managed to fix things as usual.

Romy tells me Canary Wharf is best at the weekend without the workforce. I may venture forth in the summer on a boat trip. We shall see.

Ate rather a lot yesterday, though lunch was a healthy steak with tomato and mushrooms. In the morning I realised I had left all my keys locked inside the flat, so after Canary Wharf I fetched up at Dorothy and Julian's flat to collect a spare set. I arrived home very late and Kooky was rather displeased at the level of service, but perked up rather a lot after wolfing back his food.

It was Madeleine's birthday, but she did not wish to emerge and celebrate so left her alone. I suppose birthdays can become depressing in one's middle years, but the good thing is that later, each birthday feels like an achievement, having cheated the grim reaper for another year. I hope she will come out soon.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Monday Again

I am still playing around with my preserved lemons, adding more salt and might add another lemon or two. Perhaps I will pickle some limes. We shall see.

Anyway, watched Zen last night. I had completely forgotten my son was in his forties, but made more aware by watching this, since both Rufus Sewell and his equally handsome brother were friendly with my son when they were in their late teens. Anyway I thought Zen was very good indeed, having missed the first episode I was glad I watched last night.

Kook bit me again this morning, so was banned from the bedroom. That heavy screen I purchased is very useful sometimes. I have a feeling that his goldfish memory is not going to help with this behavioural approach. We shall see.

I have purchased a heated brush thing to help with styling my newly short hair. Certainly putting loads of product in bulks the ageing,anorectically fine strands a bit. I am so self-obsessed - always a danger in single folk.

Lunched at Lye Torng today. Dorian is completely fascinated by Groupon, wishing that he had thought of it a couple of years ago.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Active Sunday

Rather annoyingly, I agree with Giles Coren about something. He has noticed the modern expressions being used in period productions - we both noticed a couple of incidents in the TV adaptation of Toast, but also in the well known costume pieces. He makes the point about the amount of trouble taken with costumes, sets etc. contrasted with the sloppiness of the language in many of these. Hear, hear. I thought it was just oldies like me.

I have been inspired by Nibby to make a few jam jars of preserved lemons. All you have to do is wash them, quarter or eighth them and stuff in jars with masses of salt, pushing down and adding more salt or lemon pieces as the juice is released, maybe with a bay leaf in each jar. They will be ready to use in about four weeks, and last up to a year. I shall turn them and replenish the salt a bit every now and then, probably daily. Nibby says that though you can use the flesh, when useing the best thing is to rinse them and chop the skin finely, adding to any kind of stew or casserole, and many other things, providing a terrific 'lift' to the flavour. She is also preserving limes. Nibby tells me that sour cherries make an excellent gin drink. Same weight of sugar to cherries, either freeze the cherries before popping into the gin, or prick them all over like sloes. She thinks that any cherries would work, but the sour cherries are best, producing a kind of marzipan flavour addition from the stones. Must purchase some gin and cherries.

The Norman Rockwell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery has had rave reviews. I would like to go and see this, but will need to get a move on, I suspect.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Some Success

Remind me to go to House of Fraser again: I had a hand job done by a wonderful young man - in that my hands were massaged in Dead Sea salt with some oil in it, then rinsed and were incredibly soft afterwards. This was followed by an amazing nail treatment, and of course I purchased some of these, and some for Julian and Romy. Then I had my hair cut in an old fashioned bob - all the same length which made it look thicker. My GP visit was also a success, in that my diagnosis was agreed with, medications prescribed, and even an extra shampoo for my psoriasis - the New Year bonus. I shall revisit in a month to ascertain whether I need more blood tests and another specialist visit, but at least the dreaded hospital event has been postponed.

All this has cheered me up no end. Apart from my neighbour, whose father is whingeing at me yet again, no doubt encouraged by his frightful daughter, everything is hunky dory. This may be my last year of gainful employment, so my resolution is to save frantically all year against my poverty-stricken old age. Though any saving at all does rather go against the grain with me. I shall try and change the bad habits of a lifetime.

Trying to Become More Organised

This is a non-starter for me. Though I managed to organise a hairdresser appointment and an appointment with the GP today, as well as ringing the bank to pay a few bills.

Of course it is peeing with rain this morning, so Oxford Street does not beckon, though I shall force myself in.

Last night the deeply wonderful linen bedding arrived. In a kind of beige colour, but heavy and with a slight linen sheen. Made in China of course.

I have become rather overexcited and spent about £60 so far downloading from I-tunes, but this means I have most of the stuff I want, immediately available for playing from my ipod. I just have to work out how to tidy it into playlists. At the moment I might well have the Grenadier Guards playing Lillburlero immediately followed by Dr Dre, which sounds a bit surreal. Oh well, I shall sort it all out eventually.

Southwark council rang this morning offering to remove my fire next Tuesday, so shall heave it out to the pavement on Monday night in readiness.

This is a displacement activity - caused by my reluctance to a) go out in the rain; and b) have my hair cut short, as I shant be able to put it up again until it grows. Oh well, onwards and upwards.......

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

New Year - New Fire

Last night the old electric fire made a slight crackling noise before dying out. The rest of the evening was very cold downstairs. Today I decided to purchase a new fire, and though I had to try several places, managed to get hold of a small stove type of fire and cabbed it back home. Amazingly it actually fitted inside the fireplace, where it glowed in a jolly way all evening. It even has a remote control. I had better neaten the edges of the surround, and find a way of threading the flex through the side so it is out of sight, but otherwise I am very pleased with my purchase. I have also decided to have my hair cut rather shorter at the end of the week. All I have to do now is make an appointment with the quack, since the kidney is becoming worse.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Brilliant Ballet

Turns out that the ballet was Matthew Bourne's Cinderella. It was very good - set in World War II, with wonderful choreography, costumes and sets. Very dark and quirky, and not really for young children, but excellent for grownups. Afterwards we found a Med Kitchen for a snack. I was very impressed by the food, not expecting good food from a chain place, but the onion soup I had was very similar to that at Les Halles, and Alison enjoyed a poached egg and spinach on a toasted bun, with some kind of pommes Dauphinoise. All followed by some very good coffees. I shall try a Med Kitchen again.
It was midnight before I got into bed. Kooky had vanished so I called him in vain. However when I woke up at 7am he was lying on my bed, fortunately.

My last day of freedom. I shall try and get rid of my Christmas decorations and tree, which may prove a problem, and attempt to return my living room to its normal state. Ideally, I would love to get my hair cut, but it is a bank holiday, so this pleasure will have to wait, possibly until next Friday. I also need to make the annual pilgrimage to Grays Antique Market with Julian to study the jewels, and possibly, make a purchase. We shall see.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Sunday Morning and Past New Years

Horrible weigh-in this morning. Gained 2lb over Christmas. I shall never be a skinny old bat at this rate. Must try harder. At least my kidney isn't so vile today.

Ventured into the Elephant & Castle shopping centre. Overheard a lonely woman aged about 30 saying she had been all alone on New Year's Eve, but was hoping not to be next year. Join the gang, pet! Mind you, spoke to Nibby who had of course been invited out, but due to advancing years opted to go to bed at 9.30pm, which was pushing it a bit, I thought. My stepfather was always up for a party until his death. I well remember a tiny riverside pub, The White Swan in Twickenham, where we had a wonderful New Year, which ended with the legendary landlady of the time being lifted over everyone's heads to rousing cheers from the revellers - and another quieter time, where we had a lovely New Year's Eve in a French Bistro in Barnes. It was like a Reveillon dinner in France, with many courses, lots of families, a piano player and tiny dance floor. A very chic little place, low intimate lighting and full of happy people.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

2011 already

Was in bed before 11.30. Huge racket outside: drunken neighbours, fireworks on the Thames etc. Text from Dorothy and Julian on their way to a party. I hope they got back safely. Also email from Madeleine wishing me a happy new year, and a text from Jon in Devon. I suspect I am definitely becoming a NYE avoider since this is the third year I have stayed at home. My innards irritating me help to keep me lying down where possible. So strange, no results from investigations, but I really do think there is a nasty sharp stone or two in my right kidney, especially since movement provokes a considerable amount of pain in a very specific spot. I am wonder whether a sharp blow to the spot might break up the stone. On the other hand it might break up the kidney, so best not try. I shall content myself with a visit to the quack soon.

Actually managed to change the bedding this morning. I have become so attached to my real linen bedding that I am reluctant to change it to mere cotton, no matter how good it is. I am rather tempted to buy another set of linen bedding, despite the cost, from La Redoute.

Kook rushed in to escape from the noise outside last night, and spent the night on the spare room bed. A wise decision.

Still purchasing singles from i-tunes: so far: Ave Verum, Good Vibrations and Little Deuce Coupe (Beach Boys), Harry Lime theme, Chiquita Bacana (Edmundo Ros), actually I can't bear to go on. Suffice it to say Norman Greenbaum, Mozart, the Darkness, Procol Harum, etc. etc. Dear me. I have found that I cannot get some things without buying a whole album, such as Runaway by Del Shannon and a decent version of the BBC radio worker's playtime theme. Oh well. I shall have to content myself with the Teddy Bear's Picnic. For now.