Mae Rose Cottage in Dublin


I suppose you could say I have had something of a charmed life in many ways, and added to all that magic, I met, and later married, the love of my life at a party on a night in the very last week of our final term at our different colleges, but the same university. For me, at that meeting, all the bells in the world rang and the ground shook under my feet – or my legs were wobbling so much it just felt as though the ground was shaking.

We had known each other only three weeks when he proposed; later claiming during his bridegroom’s speech, ‘There was little else to do sitting in a car in a thunderstorm on top of the Brecon Beacons in west Wales…’ I accepted and we married some three months later in December 1956 and I was able to join him and live in one of the most magical places on earth. Continue reading

Books and Life


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I have been reading Sam by Jonathan Powell which was filmed for a Granada TV series somewhere around 1973. It’s a powerful story of life in a mining community in the 1930s, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. It portrays a life where unemployment and Means Testing were ever present scourges that sapped the pride and energy out of those who had to endure both. It’s a far cry from all the political correctness of the twenty-first century, and that is just as well given the prospects thrown up by yesterday’s news of the end of shipbuilding at Southampton and the threat of more to come in the remaining shipyards of Scotland being used as a kind of threat to dissuade the Scots from voting for independence in any proposed referendum.

       I have no axe to grind one way or another, but I do subscribe to the old adage that, united we stand, divided we fall. One has only to think of the impenetrable turtle presented to the opposing foe by the Roman foot-soldiers and their interlocked shields, or the hail of arrows fired simultaneously by the united archery of the Welsh long-bowmen at Agincourt, to realise the strength and effectiveness of presenting a unified front and purpose. This was also the case for the unions in times past, but their impact is passing into antiquity as their numbers decline and their leaders become engrossed with enjoying their own comfort zones, or overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness as the facts are put before them.

       There’s no getting away from the fact that labour is expensive – I was recently quoted £70 to fix my kitchen tap by a representative of British Gas (now owned by Centrica), although I have a HomeSafe contract that is supposed to cover all plumbing, heating and electricity emergencies. This costs £400+ every year. In all fairness, I have to say my contract with BG has been exemplary for many years but I have also noticed the price has increased, while the service is getting pickier as they increase the small print I don’t always read these days. Well, my reply to the engineer who quoted me on the phone was to say that I’d get a local plumber. The same one who charged me £50 for a thirty minute job some months ago when BG informed me they wouldn’t touch the sink-disposal unit I wanted removed.

In fact, I emailed the Austrian manufacturer of my kitchen tap who asked me to send a photograph of the problem. He then emailed me by return with the simple remedy, and even telephoned later to make sure all was well. I was able to tell him I’d succeeded in repairing the tap in about ten minutes while grinning into the phone as I spoke. I might have added that I had also got a great big feeling of elation at saving myself more than a few pennies.

 

 

The Power of the Word


I was reminded of something I read by John Donne, ‘Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus friends absent speak…’when I received letters from two friends now living many miles away; it was so true. Their words, written in their own inimitable ways were so different, yet in those words I could still hear their voices as clearly as if they were in the same room with me.

While I enjoy emails, and being able to Skype those friends who, like me, enjoy dabbling in computers, there is still something very special about a handwritten letter or message in a card; although the increasing costs of postage are fast rendering the paper and pen version of correspondence a luxury to be indulged in occasionally; rather like those now frowned upon indulgences like; butter, cream, and alcohol. Though I confess, I still believe that a little of what you fancy does you good – in moderation.

Portrait Picture of Tony Benn

Portrait Picture of Tony Benn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I‘ve been reading Free at Last, the diaries of Tony Benn for 1991 to 2001 and am still only half-way through, but his views, once considered by many to be maverick or outlandish, are proving more acceptable and honourable than any of those held by today’s politicians at Westminster. I blame the media, as well as members of his own political party, for encouraging the denigration of his ideas and concepts. Reading his diaries delivers a view on what a life dedicated to the service of his electorate really meant. He believed that his constituents came before party; such a view would have been poison to someone like Tony Blair, and those who think like him, believing that the party, like John Mortimer’s Mrs Rumpole, is ‘she who must be obeyed’.

Rumpole of the Bailey

Rumpole of the Bailey (Photo credit: Sarcasmo)

Of course, being honourable, honest, and having principles you feel you have to ‘stick to’, is probably rather old-fashioned these days when lining one’s own pockets and offering to use one’s  influence in return for money is making headlines in the daily news. It just goes to show – nothing changes, only the names and the faces. So many highly qualified people are having difficulty in making a living, while these political fat-cats get sleeker by the minute, with no end in sight to their globe-trotting glitzy persona. Ah well, a good book on my shelf is a friend that might turn its back on me, but remains a friend.