Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Gordon in Gucci??"

Isn't it supposed to be The Silly Season as far as content of newspapers is concerned?
Today I had a peep at " The Times". Needless to say, MP's hols are still newsworthy....although I'm glad the style reports have finished....because how CAN one compare the holiday gear of the savvy Camerons with that of the dour ( over-used word, I know...but it's accurate) and academic Gordon and his handsome, rather buxom Sarah??
Why on earth SHOULD Gordon fling on flowery shorts, reveal his knees and snog Sarah on the sands....when he's clearly happiest being dignified in public and keeping a low profile in his brogues, his roomy jacket and his well-pressed shirts??
Gordon's a serious man; being seen holding hands with Sarah and smiling slightly pleasantly ( bearing his teeth) must certainly be enough for Gordon.
The fellow needs a nice HOLIDAY, not a new wardrobe..

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Sunmmertime...And The Living Is Rainy!"

A blogging break due; I'll be back in 2/3 weeks. Hopefully Summer will have bustled in? HA. HA.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Frolicking On The Dee"

Dragging a raft up a teeming weir is all part of the fun in Chester's annual Raft Race!

It takes all sorts...but the Rotary Club who organise this, raise lots of money for various charities ( this year, Age Concern) and spectators get lots of laughs ( as well as soakings from hosepipes, watering cans...)

This year the theme was 007. The Dee glittered with crazy characters from the films/books and we enjoyed a lively carnival atmosphere.

Worth going to next year!

PS: Thanks to GAC for snap.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

"But my Dears, Good Things ALWAYS Come In Threes""

I was reminded of someone this morning.
She was a tweedy pompously-spoken elderly London teacher called Tilly . Her hair was gunmetal grey; a clumsy tortoise shell slide slithered across perfect straightness. Her breath was foggy, misted....but once, I remember, it smelt of roses. Tilly's lips were wide and full, purply pink, like a certain variety of plum I cannot name. Her hips were like boulders in her sturdy sensible skirt.

It was rumoured that Tilly's origins were aristocratic. Her father had been knighted and her mother had been A Beauty, vaguely related to Windsors. Tilly kept her mother's photo ( pretty debutante in white dress) in her ancient briefcase. It lay with her college scarf, her Quink ink, a confiscated toy. Sometimes, Tilly stared at this photo and we fell into respectful silence in the staffroom.

Tilly smelt of cats and beeswax polish and Coty talc....and after a bad morning, just occassionally...gin. It was a varied mix. She had curly gingery whiskers tickling her chin; her fingernails were golden brown, the colour of the Head's tobacco. Tilly's voice reminded me of recordings of long-dead poets ( the vowels of Tennyson) and over the years, I've listened for similar tones but rarely heard them. She wore olive green, usually ample cardigan or masculine jacket and her shoes were highly polished "brogues"which squeaked on parquet floors and staffroom lino.
We heard her coming. And Tilly's cheeks had rosy apples hanging there.

Every lunchtime Tilly sat in same place at long table in staffroom. She was a big woman who ate delicately, carving her carrots, placing peas precisely on fork, and like careful child in lonely Nursery, she saved the best till last. Other teachers ( me) slopped in tatty armchair, hid in stockroom (smoking/kipping/scoffing Mars) or huddled (moaning) with mates.... nattering about Heads, head lice, or the desire to Head Off exotic places, other schools ..

Tilly, however, spouted Wisdom at our staffroom table:
Hearing of someone's broken love affair, she muttered: " Time Will Tell, my Dears....but Never Trust A Man Whose Eyebrows Meet In The Middle"
And once, detesting the "Buy Now Pay Later" culture, Tilly said: "Everything Comes To He Who Waits" so we nodded sagely, crackling our crisps. Then she added : " ..Even A Donkey Ride at Bridlington " .
And then, of course, we dare not catch another's eye....
AND Tilly's phrase became The Secret School Motto. It was a Masonic Sign...on meeting each other (at parties, on platforms, on planes, in precincts) numerous teachers over numerous years...

BUT TODAY I woke suddenly ( as you do) with another phrase on my lips. It was a Tilly phrase, uttered in long-ago staffroom... when skinny women in mini skirts teased older pipe-smoking bushy-bearded men...when piles of red-inked marking lay beneath cigarette packets and on top of Cuppa soups....and when Tilly once sat, upright at table, eating her greens (as Nanny always told her) ...Tilly, watching us all as usual, with pale perceptive eyes.

THEN someone in the staffroom announced his engagement. We cheered. Someone else told of a stunning new job.
" Good Things, my Dears" said Tilly " Come In Threes" so we looked at each other and we wondered and waited. What good thing was next??...then Tilly spoke in a slow hushed voice: " 3 fine and very good things came once for me. "
So we held our breath and listened. And the apples in Tilly's cheeks gleamed:
" Three things came: 1945 ( The End of War) English degree at St Hilda's, Oxford....then best of all came my dearest Vivian..."

We stayed silent. Tilly was miles away.We remained still. Then we marked books and we sipped tea and we unwrapped Kitkats as quietly as possible. And afterwards, Tilly often mentioned War and Oxford.
But she never mentioned Vivian again.

I've had 3 Good Things in 3 days and THAT'S WHY why I woke uttering Tilly's phrase...remembering Tilly's moving words that day in staffroom.
On Thursday: A visit to Chester Mystery Plays on Cathedral Green This is a 5 yearly spectacle...fabulous music by Matt Baker plus vigorous involvement of talented Cestrians of all ages. See website re bookings/details.
On Friday: A visit to Carnforth Railway Station, made famous through Noel Coward's " Brief Encounter" ( for meeting of Society of Authors as guest of Clare: . This included talk by novelist James Friel who has adapted classic/contemporary novels/plays for radio and also leads writing courses at LJMU and Arvon.
AND On Saturday: Dinner with close friends at the excellent Sheldrakes by the water on the Wirral peninsula ( see )

But now it's Sunday afternoon and it's a drowsy day and the cats are sleeping and the garden is quiet and I've been thinking...about the End of War, about an Oxford college....
AND I've been thinking about Tilly and her beloved Vivian...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Slipping Backwards and Forwards and Backwards Again..."

I was about 12, I suppose. As a treat, I stayed up late to watch a play on TV. I sat on a squashy brown leather sofa with a lakeland terrier called Flash ( same dog who entered the Cheshire Show, on whim of my mother, only to come 4th out 0f 4, ie. last...but I still have the triumphant 4th prize rosette lurking in some secret drawer...) ...

However, back to the play (although my time slip WAS actually fully in keeping!)

The play was JB Priestley's " Time and the Conways". And I've never forgotten its black and white impact. I was hooked. Priestley's themes were rich ones; there was family ( always a favourite: romance and tragedy plus small/big problems combined) and there was a look at British social/political history, 1919-37. BUT best of all, there were slips in time and shifts in time...and this hugely intrigued....I've no idea now WHO starred that night but that play was haunting and memorable and quite definitely, a TREAT that's glowed ever since...

In later years, I found that Priestley had read JW Dunne's book " Experiment with time". The book played with the theory that all time takes place simultaneously, that present, past and future merge as one. And at 12, this was, (for me watching the play in red dressing gown) a shivery and awe-inspiring idea.....although I suppose as an adult, it's even more so....
SO when I visited Chester Theatre Club ( ) this week for Priestley's " Dangerous Corner" ( also a "time slip" story, published 1932, 5 yrs before "Conways" ), I was wondering what this'd be like...

It was a TREAT. Directed by Alison Knott, with finely chosen cast ( this Club ooozes talent) and an excellent 1930's decor ( No Clarice Cliff vase, though, on drawing room shelf; I had a good look!) ...we were kept spellbound by a story crisply told...

AND it was particularly good to see Helen Williams ( as Maud Mockridge) looking stately and glam and chainsmoking in style on gorgeous Art Deco sofa..