Sunday, 20 August 2017

Saturday Night

Good grief I hate it with a vengeance.

The teenage years were spent worrying that we didn't have an exciting enough plan and might get caught not going out at all - a heinous crime. The opening music to MOTD still strikes a chord of fear in my heart - that would mean we were either stood up ( or down ) for a night's raving and had to spend the evening in our bedroom listening to sad love songs on Radio Caroline assuming that the rest of our tribe were out furiously partying somewhere whilst Dad was downstairs watching the footy and Mum would be checking her pools coupon. For those of you under 50, none of the above will make sense.

Then there were the early married years where, being married to someone in the TV business, I'd usually end up on my own whilst new husband would be out filming or recording some show or other.

After that there were the early baby years when you'd be knackered and asleep on the sofa by 8pm. The promise of a night in with a bottle of red wine thwarted by the fact that you'd be legless after half a glass, and longing for an hour of sleep in the certain knowledge that you'd be up at 2am , 4am and 5am with a crying infant.

I'm not sure what came next, I think it was the skint years when if your mortgage hadn't emptied your bank account, then unpaid maternity leave would have created a sizeable hole in finances. The mere thought of squandering a small fortune on a night out was unthinkable when it was toss up between getting the car serviced or having the boiler fixed.

Next came the fat years when the thought of jostling alongside stick-thin size zeros at a night club in a pair of extra stretchy black leggings and an over sized T shirt ( the fat person's sorry uniform ) were filled with dread and desperation.

So here I am in the pre- retirement years with a grumpy husband and a pair of youngsters, for whom every night is potentially party night , still penniless and fat with no desire whatsoever to muster enough energy for an evening on the town, let alone the company of the 'happily -marrieds' , or the 'just back from a holiday of a lifetimes' or worse still the perenially skinnies with an appetite like a horse and the metabolsim of a gazelle, complaining that a size 8 is too baggy on them.

Our Saturday night bust-up last night revolved around my asking husband for some help with what seems like my never-ending mission to de-clutter the house. This ultimately involved my piling a lifetime's photographs and scrapbboks into a crate and dumping it by the back door ready for the binmen next week. If nobody in the house can ever be bothered to look at or even acknowledge them, then why shoudl I ? I've been carfeully recording and archiving our collective memories for the last decade in the beleagured hope that someone someday might actually show an interest. Fat chance.

Let's face it, scrapbooking is just an excuse to hang on to the past and indulge in obscene levels of expenditure in the hope that it might fill a void or render our memories meaningful. So it was that I found myself last night leaving the house - YES - on a Saturday night - and driving round aimlessly looking for some form of solace or refuge. It struck me that unless you want to sit in the corner of an anonymous pub nursing a warm pint with a bunch of sorry solitary drunks, there aren't a lot of options for the lonely.

I ended up at a 24 hour Tescos - the saddest place on earth on a Saturday night where sales of meals for one and hard liquor probably peak at around 9pm. The coffee shop was closed so I resorted to a saunter round the magazine aisle wondering who on earth buys Practical Sheep Rearing or worse - Esquire ( Get the lowdown on popular culture as well as great advice on women, sex and gadgets and more ! )  - yes that's what it actually says on the cover complete with exclamation mark.  I resisted a dozen Krispy Kremes and left with a clutch of 'back to school' stationery although I have 2 boys who've both finished their school eduaction. You never know when you might need a 10 pack of file dividers though.

Streets are empty by 9pm and car parks are no-go areas unless you want to be mistaken for looking for something else other than a quiet place to park up and reflect. Enough said. Restaurants are full of groups or couples and you never know what sort of a weirdo might come and sit next to you if you end up at the cinema.

And so it was that another Saturday came to a sorry end and I returned home, parked up and went to bed. My only victory was that I'd managed to survive it without resorting to food or booze. A victory in itself.


Friday, 18 August 2017

Smoasting Season has begun

Yes, the Social Media Boasting season, or SMoasting season as I like to call it, has flung open its doors as it always does after results day.

The most hilarious example I received was online from a 'friend' .

"How did you do at Slimming Wold last night ? " she asked innocently.

"3lbs" I replied knowing full well why she'd got in touch

"2lbs" she countered, adding , " Oh and [insert son's name here] got A* A* A and he was only 2 marks off a third A* - so we're having his paper re-marked "

I could have wet myself laughing.

Youngest son did so well but I'm not about to splash his grades across Facebook for the world to see. No gloating here. I'll let close friends and family know privately ... if they ask .... but I'm content to let him smile quietly to himself in the knowledge that he worked his socks off, acheived the kind of success of which he can be proud and let the rest of the helicopter Mums brag from the rooftops that their offspring are clearly child geniuses ... then wait for them to unravel when they get out into the big bad world and realise that one of the finest gifts your parents could have bestowed on you , is that of quiet modesty.  


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Week Three at Slimming World

All the threes - end of third week , third weigh-in - 3lbs lost for the week - Hurrah.

I was worried I might only scrape my target of 2.5lbs but I managed to exceed it thankfully. That included two sneaky but small glasses of wine during the week and a meal out so I'm particularly chuffed.

I'm saving my syns for tomorrow night when we'll either be celebrating or commiserating youngest son's A Level results. The champagne is on ice.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Careful what you wish for

At some stage in my life I must have mentioned that I liked Snoopy. For every birthday, Christmas and Valentine's Day thereafter , I amassed a sizable collection. Strangely I chose to keep them all and now can't bear to part with them. Most of them were from a boyfriend during my university days. He'd send them to me for no other reason than to say he missed me. How sweet. I think I appreciate them more today than I ever did back then. And here are just a few of them, and yes ... they're going in the trunk.





The BIG Trunk

I bought a BIG silver trunk and that's where all my letters and memorabilia will be going.





Today's the day. Having spent most of the summer holiday ( aka monsoon season ) sorting through and re-reading each and every letter, card and notelet, consigning every carefully penned message to its assigned folder, I am now going to attempt one last cull before those I that have survived the cut will be bundled into the trunk and who knows when or even if I may ever open it again.

The task has been overwhelming. I am a die-hard sentimentalist. The reading of sweet, kind words, notes of encouragement, congratulations and commiserations at every milestone of my life so far has left me an emotional wreck. I have learnt more about my younger self than I ever realised at the time.

So, one least day to get this done and then I can move on. But before I do, I want to document one bizarre co-incidence. One afternoon , I had settled into a chair to read another pile of letters, this time from my mother who died over 30 years ago. She wasn't one for lengthy letters but what she did write always made me laugh out loud. She seemed forever to be sending me £5 notes, urging me to buy 'nice food' and telling little anecdotes that would end with a phrase such as " well ... you know what your Dad's like " . I could almost see her eyes roll heavenwards as she wrote it . This particular letter asked me how I liked the chair she'd given me for my newly purchased house in Greenwich. She told me that it was 'wasted' in their hallway and that it was called a library chair. It was the very chair I was sitting in as I re-read that letter three decades later. How strange and unlikely was that ?





Edited to add ...



Job done - thank the Lord . Now I can get back to the here and now.

Friday, 11 August 2017

This will be me ...

... at the local swimming pool next week .


Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Cupboard Under the Stairs ... in Numbers

Will my life ever be done with de-cluttering ?

I should seriously NEVER EVER EVER go near another shop for the entire rest of my life.

Always good to start a new clearing out project at the end of a long day when you're tired and hungry and at your most irritable although that might extend to most of my waking hours at the moment. So I decided to tackle the cupboard under the stairs this evening. Here is its contents in numbers :


  • Thermos Flasks - 5
  • Insulated cool bags - 17
  • Those blue plastic bags from Ikea which you never remember to bring and so have to buy another - 9
  • Shopping Trolleys , I was old before my time - 2
  • Hideous laundry bags - 16
  • Not quite so hideous red vinyl polka dot bags which may or may not come in useful when moving house but in the meantime occupy about 50% of useful cupboard space where I could be storing things I actually use and need now - 23
  • Picnic sets - 5 , for goodness sake , what was wrong with me ?
  • Metres of bubble wrap - 20 but never any when I needed it or could find it
  • Tool kits - 2 but do either ever have the right tool, screw or nail ? No
  • Rafia style beach bags - 7
  • Canvas Shopping Bags - 14 A veritable archive of shopping through the years ranging from Golden Jubilee souvenir bags to long defunct department stores


The only real find were two delightful navy blue and cream stripey fleece car blankets which came in their own fleece bags embroidered with a bright red fleece star - one for each of the boys when they were little and accompanied us on every day trip and holiday. Those will be going in the boys' trunks which are in the loft and hold all their childhood mementoes - heaven help them.

Most of these are now bagged up ready for the charity shop. When they receive this lot , they'll probably think they all came from a closing down camping shop. We only ever went camping once. Once was enough in my book. It wasn't the outdoorsy bit I hated , it was the fact that every other camper seemed to bring all their indoorsy stuff with them to the campsite. I couldn't beleive that people would go to all the bother of erecting a tent then whip out a telly and watch East Enders of an evening . What on earth is the point of communing with fresh air if you're just going to bring all the misery of London with you ? That and having  to listen to every other camper snoring through the night . Never again.

So we now have a huge space to fill under the stairs and what will I be putting in there ? Everything I've just cleared out of the living room ... which in numbers amounts to :


  • Bags of 200 Ikea tea lights - 3 If I lit one every day from now on they'd still be going in 2 years time
  • Tea Light Holders - mercifully less than  the above
  • Dinner Candles ( such a quaint old fashioned term ) - 23
  • Packs on incense sticks - 6 and they all smell horrible
  • Incense stick holders - 4 the last vestiges of my hippy youth


... and here's the difficult one ....

Arts and crafts projects from the boys' primary school days - countless. Oh my , a whole new hornet's nest of indecision. What to keep and what to turf discretely in the bin bag ? There are only so many pottery owls, ping pong ball headed choirboys and balsa wood models you can make room for. I have left it to husband to decide but will wait until he's gone to bed to resue what he will inevitable throw out. They area a heartless bunch husbands.



Slimming World Week 2

I was stupidly anxious about weigh-in last night as I've been glued to the scales all week - an old habit which I'm finding hard to break. I needn't have worried though - 3lbs off which was exactly my target. Going for 2.5 lbs next week.

Treated myself to a cheeky glass of red wine when I got home which I realised afterwards was quite foolish. It's going to be hard also to break that old habit also of reward = food , which is where it all went wrong in the first place.

Today I've eaten 'experimental' food like a Minstrone Mugshot and a 0% fat yoghurt . I'm not in favour of anything low fat or recognised 'slimming' foods like the soup . They are the work of the devil . However they were surprisingly tasty and, when used in moderation, an acceptable part of the whole plan, providing I don't start relying on them.

Onward and downward. No scales this week - that's going to be tough.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The final word on ...

... the vexed issue of whether to throw away old letters.

You have been very patient, bearing with me over my dilemma of what to do about the piles of old letters I have hoarded over 40 years and deserve a break. But before I pen my final full stop on the matter , I found this on the internet last night , written by Jane Shilling in 2014, who now writes for The Telegraph but back then wrote for the Daily Mail Online ( well we've all gotta eat ) .

It is the most acutely and minutely well-observed piece of writing on this issue that I have read and trust me I have been reading everything I could lay my hands on, about this topic, in the last few weeks. It could have been me talking, but far better articulated. No co-incidence that we are exactly the same age.



Why I just can't bear to throw old letters away, even the ones that are far too painful to read...memories are too precious 

BY JANE SHILLING FOR MAILONLINE 14/08/2010

Jane says it is strange to think how she communicated by letter as a student 
From the fragments of writing, a long-buried image emerged of the person she was - and Jane says she 'didn't like her at all'
It's predicted such letters will soon cease to exist. But Jane is not convinced




Decluttering, we are often told, is good for you. Getting rid of your superfluous stuff doesn’t just leave you with empty cupboards, it’s a way of purifying your life. A fresh start.
Over the past couple of years, since my son went to university, I have been gradually clearing out the detritus of several decades.

At first it was easy but now I’m left with the tough stuff: baby clothes, childhood paintings and — hardest of all — old letters, which seem to demand a more dignified end than the recycling bin. 

A recent survey for the Royal Mail claims that the art of letter-writing is in terminal decline, replaced by email and social networking. So it is a sign of my age — I’m 54 — that having resolved to eradicate the bit of my past that my letters represent, I’m obliged to dispose of a physical archive.

My 20-year-old son, whose correspondence is vast, but entirely electronic, could delete the lot at the press of a couple of keys. It is strange to think that when I was a student, the only way my friends and I could make contact was by letter.

There were no mobile phones in the 1970s, no email, no Facebook. So we used to write constantly: an endless stream of notes, all of which I seem, inexplicably, to have hoarded.
When I decided to throw out my letters, I thought I had better look through them first. I hadn’t realised that reading old letters is like time travelling — a journey over terrain that seems deceptively familiar but turns out to be stranger than you remembered, and more hazardous.

Plaintive notes from would-be suitors — ‘Where ARE you?’ — were all muddled up with brave, funny letters from my grandma, postcards from my tutors enquiring after undelivered essays, long letters from friends suffering agonies of boredom during the interminable university vacations, and reams of juvenile poetry.

Sifting through this pile of soon-to-be waste paper, I began, fatally, to read. And from the fragments of writing, a long-buried image began to emerge of the person I used to be. And I didn’t like her at all.
This earlier me seemed selfish (all those missed appointments with friends who had made the long, dull journey to my distant college room), lazy (all those unwritten essays) and unkind.

The love letters made particularly painful reading. The youthful me didn’t strike me as someone who deserved the tenderness and affection that those letters expressed.

Looking back from a distance of 30-odd years, I know that my younger self was about to become very lonely and unhappy for quite a long time, and I’m afraid it served her right.
Between the painful letters of my early 20s and the next batch there is a gap, during which the serious business of living took over.

My friends and I survived the hectic period in our 30s while we were juggling work and children with our friendships intact. But for a while there was no time for letter-writing.
We were like fogbound ships, hoisting desperate signals, ‘I AM STILL HERE — ARE YOU?’, and hoping that we’d still be in contact when the cloud of busy-ness and exhaustion lifted. When it did, something had changed. I had become a writer, and I began to get letters from strangers in response to things I had written. When the letters were kind and interesting, it seemed only polite to reply. By degrees I accumulated half-a-dozen regular correspondents — people I’d never met but who felt like friends.

And then there was email: the perfect hybrid of conversation and letters. It has been predicted that personal letters will soon no longer exist — killed by email and texts as surely as horse-drawn carriages were superseded by the internal combustion engine. But I am not convinced. We may think ourselves more emotionally spontaneous than our letter-writing forebears, but human nature has changed surprisingly little across the centuries.

‘My dear Cassandra,’ wrote the novelist Jane Austen to her sister on Saturday March 5, 1814. ‘Do not be angry with me for beginning another Letter to you. I have read [Byron’s poem] the Corsair, mended my petticoat and have nothing else to do…’

To me, that line seems as fresh as though it were written two minutes ago, rather than two centuries. Like the correspondents of 200 years ago, we still crave scandal, reassurance, tenderness, news. Jane Austen’s letters, with their excited updates on the latest fashions and their savage comments about her neighbour’s killer bad breath, may be written in ink on paper, but they are the emails of their time.

What you don’t get from email is the satisfying physicality of a letter. Not many people of my son’s age, I imagine, will ever experience the clutch of the heart caused by the sight of an envelope addressed in a longed-for handwriting; nor find themselves unexpectedly reduced to tears when an ancient love letter falls out of a long-unread book that they have idly taken down from  the bookshelf. You can’t fall asleep holding an email. Or mark your place in a book with it. You could print it out, I suppose, but that isn’t quite the same.

Today’s 20-year-olds won’t miss what they never knew, but I notice that I still revert to pen and paper when it comes to serious stuff like love and death. When I look through my old letters, I have no idea what I wrote that produced those replies of exasperation, tenderness, amusement or despair — and I find it disturbing.
I can destroy my half of the correspondence, but I can’t make the whole thing vanish. If any of my correspondents has kept my letters, that version of me is out there on the loose, capering mockingly beyond my power to control her.

As for my electronic archive, I could wipe my hard disk and hurl my computer into the Thames (as once I planned to drown the letters of a faithless lover), but it wouldn’t make any difference. Each of my email correspondents has the full record of our exchanges, and I can’t take a word of them back. It is a thought that should make me resolve to give up correspondence. But somehow it does not.

When you write letters, whether by email or on paper, you write, without knowing it, your life story, and one rarely emerges well from the account. But it is the human condition to be ridiculous, and I may as well embrace it.

I confess, too, that I may even be having second thoughts about throwing out my correspondence. While re-reading my 30-year-old letters was upsetting, it made me think about friendship. Most of those notes are from people I still know and love (though who on earth was John, who wrote such fervent letters in the Trinity term of 1977?).

The two people I loved best — my grandmother and an old university friend — are dead, and now that I’ve seen their handwriting again, I’m not sure I can bear to throw their letters away. But if I save those, what about the beautiful letter I had from a military historian, saying that my first book made him cry? Or the generous note from a fellow writer, praising my second book? I was so proud to get those letters. Are they really going out with the rubbish? Cupboard space is precious in a house as small as mine. But so are memories. And just at the moment, I can’t decide which I need more.



Thursday, 3 August 2017

Advice Required

So .... I am stuck ... somewhere in the late seventies / early eighties. Having unearthed three huge boxes of cards, letters and items of memerobilia I ever received from the age of about seveneteen from the loft a few weeks ago, I now don't know what on earth to do with them all.

There are love letters from old flames, angry poetry from jilted boyfriends, programmes from concerts, brochures from tourist attractions, newsletters , newspaper cuttings,  notes from my Mum which read ' saw this card of a rabbit and thought of you' ( she never did write anything lengthy ... and it was usually in shorthand ! ) , sketches, school reports, diaries, ancient primary school drawings, swimming certificates ..... and one of my favourites - a small white certificate from the Surrey County Show for my rabbit Lucy who'd won third place in the 'Rabbit with the Cleanest Feet' category ( I think there were only 2 entries ) .

I have spent the last few weeks reading them all, trying to recall, events and names and faces. I have absolutely no idea what to do with them all. Do I really want to be reminded of the sympathy letters from my mother's and subsequently father's deaths ?  There are random photos of old boyfriends -  some of whom I didn't even like. Rather hilariously , there's a frame with a photo of the latest young man in my life and I noticed that behind it, there were a whole bunch of others - each one of a different boyfriend , a gallery of past loves each being replaced by the latest. Some have made me laugh out loud and some have made me cry. I am a mess. It's like a tidal wave of emotion  and decidely unsettling.

Rather weirdly , one letter was from my mother asking how the antique library chair she had passed on to me was fitting into our new home - I was actually sitting in it as I read that. That completely spooked me out.

The thing is, I am paralysed with indecision. I simply do not know whether to keep or bin them. There are a million choices to be made and I cannot make a single one without fearing that I may regret the decision. Half of them are sitting in a black bin bag under the bed awaiting disposal. I became more ruthless as I waded through the piles of correspondence and so the filling of that bin bag gathered apace after a couple of hours. But I didn't have the courage to actually throw it out and now I'm wondering should I go through them all again a second time ? I couldn't even begin to photogrpah them all for a digital archive unless I had a year to spare.

I've just been online and bought a metal trunk which should be big enough to slide under the bed and look relatively stylish. The idea is that I can fill that but once it's full - that's it - no more. I'm just delaying the decision-making and I know I won't be able to stop at just one trunk. What conceivable purpose could they possibly have in years to come ? I've even got one photograph of my sister and I looking suitable morose at the funeral parlour having just chosen a coffin for Dad - what were we thinking having that taken ?

In ten or twenty years time, will I really want to unearth them all over again and given that my memory will be even worse by then, will I be left puzzled by who these people were and what on earth had gone on to elicit such a response ?

So, assuming that this digital memory will survive , I'm recording a few passing thoughts about what I've learned from reading each and every single one.


  • Despite thinking that my parents barely gave me a bean during my student years - they were actually very generous and sent me fivers and tenners through the post with a short note attached saying 'pay off your overdraft' or 'buy fresh fruit'
  • I think I must have dumped every boyfriend by post ( today's equivalent would be by text I suppose )  judging by the painful replies I collected bemoaning my 'heartlessness' . I realise now that if a young man asked me out , I always felt obliged to say yes having not learnt the art of a polite refusal. I don't think I particularly wanted to go out with many of them and so usually ended up letting the relationship drag on beyond its shelf life and then chickening out by breaking it off by way of an apologetic letter.
  • I must have implied that I liked the cartoon dog Peanuts at some stage, judging by the hundreds of Snoopy cards I received over a decade. I didn't but was too polite to say.
  • My friend Jan ( the Pan ) had the funniest sense of humour.
  • I had a bit of a thing for RAF Pilots !
  • Looked like I sent a lot of cards and letters that cheered people up , judging by their grateful replies.
  • We all wore flares and had bad perms


I must have been either very sentimental or determined to unhinge my older self by keeping all these memories. Little did I know that years later I would be slumped on the edge of my bed wondering why on earth I didn't appreciate the amazing life that I was living and the wonderful oppurtunities and life-changing experiences that I had been granted. Maybe re-discovering them all these years later was the purpose behind keeping them ... just to remind me that you have to carpe that old diem and make every moment count. Time to stop wallowing and move on or maybe just get out my flares and have my hair permed.

First Weigh-in

I was BEYOND excited by the time I got to the scales and DELIRIOUS with joy when I heard them say " Six and half pounds  "

Oh boy , if I could just keep that up . I know I can't so I'm aiming for 3lbs next week.

Good grief this Slimming World thing really does work !