Last week I was declaring myself Not-a-Fan of Theresa May. This week, it will surprise no-one to learn that I’m also Not-a-Fan of Donald Trump. In his case, I don’t think it’s even necessary to list any reasons. Where would you begin and end?

However, I’m still rather ashamed of our behaviour towards him as a visitor to this country. I’m all for the rights to peaceful protests, so we had the RIGHT to object to him, but it was hardly good manners on our part to insult him personally. He is the President of the United States after all, and he came in peace. We would not be pleased if some Prime Minister of ours, however he or she might have been despised by us, were to have been received by the United States in like manner. And apart from the issue of how we treated him, there’s the question as to whether this is how we want to behave.

I think it might have been a better way of demonstrating our disapproval of him if we just had completely ignored him. I suspect that the good Donald would prefer even negative attention, rather than none.

And while I’m thinking about media attention, I heard a BBC news broadcast in the last few days which stated that Theresa May had ‘caved in’ to pressure from some section of her party over some issue or other. I thought the BBC was famed for it’s even handed and unbiased reporting? This is certainly not an example of that. ‘Caved in’ is a) an opinion and b) an emotive term. Mind you, I think it was true, but they should find a better way of putting it!

I’m going to cave in to the heat and go and read a magazine!




We’ve had an unpredictable week in politics with predictions as to the longevity or otherwise of Theresa May as Prime Minister. Now I’m not a fan of Theresa May – she’s a head girl, a Tory, and her taste runs to leopard skin shoes – but I think her unexpected survival this far is due to one of the few admirable qualities of the British electorate – ie their desire for FAIR PLAY. (I mean the electorate’s desire for fair play, not the politician’s obviously. Many of them don’t have a notion what it means.)

The Tory party has a ruthless and unprincipled attitude to the removal of leaders who no longer suit it, but if it wishes to win the election that will follow, it has to pay some attention to the wishes and views of the voting public.

So I find myself entirely surprised to be in the position that I’m defending Mrs May. She is in a very difficult position. She voted to remain but she’s heading a team and a government tasked with leaving Europe. For her majority, she’s obliged to depend on the DUP which is the equivalent of a baby owl needing the support of a fish eagle feeding chicks – i.e. tenuous to say the least. There are elements of her own party which are rabid in their support of Leave or Remain and Cameron was so afraid of them that he asked this unaskable question, which he ought not to have done. However it has been asked and we must now deliver accordingly.

Mrs May must lie in her bed at night, wondering which of the undesirable possible outcomes might be marginally acceptable. She does not enjoy overwhelming support from any section of party or country and most pundits predicted her demise in a couple of weeks, Yet she is still here. She has managed (just about) to steer her way through these dangerous waters. She has kept her temper while being insulted and betrayed (and by those from whom she might reasonably expected some loyalty.) She gets up every morning and goes doggedly through her day, and as Dickens observed, It’s dogged as does it.

As I’ve stated, I’m no supporter of Mrs May and it’s very unlikely that I would vote for her party. But I don’t think she’s done so badly. She doesn’t insult us or patronise or underestimate us as her female predecessor did. She is entitled to be treated with respect and to the right of a Prime Minister to call the next election and be listened to with courtesy.

Besides, of the candidates available, who would you prefer at the present time? I agree that the lady is neither decisive nor brilliant. Boris is brilliant and having him in charge would be even more hair-raising. Brilliant people quite often soar like a burning star only to come to an equally spectacular bad end. Think of Napoleon.

No, on reflection, Don’t!



We British, foreigners observe, are ‘obsessed’ with the weather. I don’t think that this is actually true. We are surrounded by weather, as we are by water, and we certainly talk about it a lot, but I think we choose to do that. I don’t think we’re obsessed by it. Our weather is so diverse and varied (yet generally it remains within mild and tolerable boundaries) that it impacts very strongly on our life and culture.

In the anonymous short poem that runs:

Western wind,

when wilt thou blow?

The small rain down can rain.

Christ, if my love were in my arms,

And I in my bed again…

you can feel the writer (whom I like to imagine was a Roman soldier used to the warm Roman climate) despairing over a prolonged cold, wet period. We know exactly how he felt.

But I think the reputation of our country for it’s great beauty is in no small measure due to the weather. This is not only because its dampness (perhaps I should be honest and say wetness) contributes to our ‘green and pleasant land’ but because we view it through the infinite variety of our climate conditions. We see it on clear days ruffled by the breeze; we see it still and mysterious in mist.

In Britain you never know what weather the day will bring. While this means that its cooperation cannot be depended upon for a wedding, a queen’s jubilee, or even just a picnic, it gives us our capacity to deal with whatever turns up; our resilience; our endurance; what makes us British

I’ve been in countries where the weather is the same for long periods. I’ve been several times to Singapore and no matter when the time of year, the weather was exactly the same: grey, overcast sky, extremely warm and humid, so that stepping onto the street was like walking through wet sheets and even just sitting doing nothing was quite exhausting. Plus in its perpetual sameness it grew boring.

I think we are genuinely interested in our weather, but it is also a very convenient neutral topic of conversation. It is very hard to see how anyone could be offended by a few comments on the weather. So, with someone you’ve just met, or don’t know very well, it’s a useful filler: you make a few mild remarks about the weather but meanwhile you’re giving yourself time to observe them and

decide how you’re going to proceed. Talk of the weather is not personal and it is not political. As the rhyme tells us, it rains the same upon the just as on the unjust fellow (except that the just gets wetter because the unjust stole the just’s umbrella.)

In England, we’ve have unusually enjoyed a prolonged period of hot, dry weather. Although it was pleasant enough to begin with, I’ve had enough of it. I long for rain – for the coolness, for the grey skies, for the wonderful smell of dust that the rain will release, and for how next morning everything will look brand new and washed clean.

Well, no doubt it will come soon enough and then we can complain about how awful it is and long for sunshine!


Yesterday I saw a swallow (technically a swift.) It was solitary and high in the sky, but I was very relieved to see it. I think this is very late and I was beginning to fear that they would not come at all. One swallow does not make a summer as the old adage reminds us but a complete absence of swallows would make for a disaster.

Today however at Wakehurst I saw a dozen or so, and was reassured.

On our abortive trip to France, we spent three days on a site on a curve of the Seine River as it meanders through the Seine Maritime. There were small ferries that puttered back and forth from South Bank to North and back again. They took traffic across on a first come, first served basis, without charge through the river’s repeated meanderings. I found the terrain completely confusing and never had any idea of which side of the river we were on, much to John’s irritation. There was often a morning mist and swallows would hurtle out of the pale banks of pearly clouds at breakneck speed, skimming the surface of the water. They were the real thing too, with crimson throats and iridescent dark blue forked tails.

Even earlier this year I had observed swallows in the garden of our house in Portugal, where they were as speedy and dextrous as Renaldo – but then Portugal is barely a stone’s throw from Africa, so that hardly counted..


I’ve been throwing out clothes. This is long overdue. Not being unduly concerned about fashion, I keep my clothes for years. I’m still wearing some clothes that I had in Scotland when we left 30 years ago. But my wardrobes are becoming overfull.

What happens when you retain a garment that you no longer care for is that it languishes in the back of your wardrobe, denying ordinary , wearable clothes room. You never actually wear it. When I transferred a garment to the other season wardrobe recently I realised I had never worn it over the entire winter. Indeed I could not remember ever having worn it in recent years. The garment beside it was similarly rejected by me – it was too tight and too short.

I pay them the courtesy of trying each one on. Several are too tight – when did this happen, I wonder? I ask myself each time I try something on: does it look shabby; is it too tight; is the colour flattering; is it comfortable (very important these days.) I send some to the charity shops but mostly I decide that when I’m finished with them, my clothes are not fit for other people. I therefore cut them up for patchwork, removing buttons, zips and any sections of embroidery.

I made up three pairs of pyjamas. I am particular about these. I have cut a pattern which is exactly made to my requirements. A top with a round neck with a slit in it, a yoke at the back, wrist length sleeves, easy to lift off and on. The edges of the neck and sleeves can be trimmed with self made bias binding or they an be sewn onto cheesecloth and turned. It’s easy to sew – no buttonholes or zips. The bottoms have legs the right length and width. I usually make them in pure cotton and occasionally silk. Because only my close family sees them I can decorate them in an eccentric manner, so I sometimes cut embroideries out of old tablecloths etc and apply them.

The three pyjamas I made this week comprise firstly a blue cotton pair. I discovered I had bought insufficient material, so found a piece of matching flowery cotton and with judicious piecing was able to produce a pair. The second ones are of thick white cotton and there are blue gingham bottoms and a bias trim on the top. The third pair are white, and I had bought in a junk shop a set of mats, I think intended for a dressing table, with blue shadow work embroidery. I attached one long mat (its edges cut off) to each leg and a small square to the bottom of the sleeves. There was enough material (just) left over from the blue pair to provide bias binding for the neck and sleeves. I’m quite pleased with them!

And the good thing about throwing out clothes is that it leaves gaps in your wardrobe which it is absolutely urgent and essential that they be filled!


I’m sure we all must feel tremendous sympathy for Alfie Evans, the Liverpool child who has been the subject of court orders regarding his life support system. Physically he is a nice looking little boy and it must be heart rending to watch him grow as a child should (though perhaps he is smaller? I do not know) while his neurological and mental progress has been curtailed. Who amongst us does not look at the distraught parents with secret dread in our heart, and think, There but for the grace of God, go we; and how would we endure it? We know that like them there is nothing that we would not try in an effort to save our precious child.

We can have sympathy for the medical team too. In all my experience with the profession (and I am by no means an easy, docile or compliant patient) I have not met a single one whom one did not feel was doing his or her very best to improve matters for the patient. This team will have done their utmost to help the child and support the parents and in the end it has all come to nothing.

Clearly it would be wrong to expect the parents to be able to retain a detached judgement in such cases. That’s not what parents are for. The medical team has a difficult task in that it is expected to deal with the parents with kindness and compassion, but to retain a certain detachment.

I am not sure it has been entirely successful in this case.

It always seems to me to be extremely regrettable when such cases end up in court. At the point where the hospital begins to refuse parental requests to take the child home, or to try unorthodox treatment, then I start to lose sympathy with them. They should, I think, show more humility. They are not always right . Besides (and I don’t care what the law may declare) at the last resort (and we are surely there with poor Alfie) – it’s not the hospital who is responsible – it’s the parents.

Surely the consultant in charge should say to the parents (and God knows we do not envy him or her this task); we have done every thing we can, but we cannot effect any improvement. While we can prolong his life a little with life support, he will not get any better. It is our opinion that the quality of life he would have is too impoverished, especially when there will be no improvement in his condition. It is with great sorrow that we request your agreement to switching off the life support system. They should give the parents a few days to think about this, and then they should ask them how they wish to deal with the time from when the life support is switched off to the time of the death of the child, offering them every support.

No doubt in this case and in the vast majority of cases the hospital is entirely correct in its judgement but if the parents wish to take their child home, or to Italy for other treatment, then I think every effort should be made to help them. They are in extremis. Their child is going to die anyway. If anything can be done to ease their pain, then let it be done.   What difference does it make to the hospital?

If you were hard hearted enough you could argue that this case with its many legal battles has been a colossal waste of money, given the likely outcome that the child will die; but faced with such parental grief and anguish I certainly could not bring myself to support such an argument.

PS Alfie Evans died in the night; may his journey be easy.


The changing of the wardrobes is underway!

When this takes place, one is heartily sick of the departing season’s garments. I do this swap over several days, examining each garment with a critical and ruthless eye. Anything which doesn’t fit / suit / appeal is either despatched to a charity shop or cut up into pieces and re-used.

Today I am wearing white cotton jeans, and a long linen dress, white, with drawn thread embroidery down the button edged front, which was Elisabeth’s and which I sewed altering its A line style to straight. It has no collar which doesn’t suit me and so I have a white chiffon scarf with silver decoration back to front round my neck with the ends hanging down my back. Beige sandals complete the ensemble.

Summer is a-coming in!