I’m heartily sick of the whole business of the EU Referendum.     You can’t switch on the television without some pundit telling you how to cast your vote and forecasting catastrophic consequences for the country and perdition for you personally if you cast your vote the ‘wrong’ way.      The American president came and told us to vote to stay in or America would no longer smile upon us.   We hadn’t noticed that much gain from heir smiles up until now, and I suspect (and hope ) that a general reaction was, And what business is it of yours?

Going back to the groups attempting to influence the decision, I’ve come to the conclusion that NONE of them have the least idea what the outcome will mean for the country, and so they’re commandeering certain facts. proposed future actions, predicting the reactions of ‘our brothers in Europe’ and translating these nebulous results into a forecast.   There’s no proving or disproving these scenarios, of course, so they can be made with relative immunity except that the protagonist knows he’s just made it up and looks stressed.

Talking about self induced stress, into this toxic mixture wanders one A Blair on Andrew Marr this morning.   I couldn’t believe that he would be so bold (Is he talking to us?   Well, tell him we’re not listening.)   He told  us we should go to war in Iran because they had weapons of mass destruction, and how wrong was he about that?   He should go back to whichever tax haven is harbouring him these days and lie low and hope we never come looking for him.

Coming out of the EU won’t solve the problems of migration.    The reasons we are having these problems include

  1.   world over population
  2.   extreme poverty of some countries compared with others
  3.   instability of Middle East (to which we have contributed) rendering formerly pleasant countries uninhabitable
  4.  religious intolerance.

None of these will be improved by our exit from the EU.

Cameron has been hoist by his own petard.   He announced the Referendum to appease the rabid right wing dogs of his own party, and now they’re running wild in packs and threatening to destroy him.

Whatever your view, go out and vote.   It might just make a difference.





It’s recently been that time of year when, in my case anyway, I swap over the summer and winter wardrobes. As I laboriously, over several days, carry out this task, it occurs to me that since we have chosen to have only drawer space in our bedroom, and use the wardrobes in two other rooms, I could just leave the winter wardrobe permanently in the front bedroom and the summer one in the back,(or vice versa). After all, it does not involve a massive trek. I do not need to call a taxi in either case.

But when it comes down to it, I find I just can’t do it. It’s obviously one of the rituals of my life.

I shunt the clothes to their new locations without examining them, but as I take each one out to wear in the following days it, I look it over very critically. Some do not pass this first inspection and are consigned to the charity bag, or cut up straight away. Perhaps they look too worn; old-fashioned; faded; or don’t fit any longer beyond the point that I can be bothered to alter them. Sometimes I just don’t fancy them any more. I’m not sentimental about my clothes (or stuff in general.) (When you’re asked ‘What would you save from the burning house? I think, the people and the animals. Everything else is replaceable.)

The first wearing is also a trial of the garment. If it’s not comfortable; if the shoulder slips off; if the material is too stiff; shiny; coloured; boring etc ; if the trouser legs are too short; then even though presumably it was also that the previous year at the end of the day I put it to be disposed of. This year I seem to dispose of as many garments as Henry VIII dismissed Queens.

Once they’ve gone, comes the good part (as no doubt Henry Tudor also found.) I look for the gaps in my wardrobe and set about filling them.

During my perambulation through my wardrobe, I come across The Dog Blanket Dress. ( A white wool dress I made, of which the result was not at all flattering .) It has sulked in the wardrobe ever since. I have never worn it, but could never quite give it up. Looking at it gloomily, I realise that it is the top half of the garment which doesn’t suit me. The bottom half is just a plain straight skirt. I have enough material left to try once more for a good outcome. (No-one can accuse me of a lack of patience and endurance!)

I cut off the bodice. I iron on interfacing in to the new waistband. I attach the waistband to the skirt and fit it to me. I pin in the darts by eye and sew them. I attach a dot of glue to the tops of the truncated zip so the zip fastener does not go skiting off into oblivion! The result doesn’t seem too bad. I hang it up in the Winter wardrobe. With a black cashmere cardigan, a small black leather handbag, black boots and a pearl and onyx necklace it should do nicely.

I’ll let you know if it turns out well. I just hope it doesn’t morph into The Dog Blanket Skirt.




We decided recently – or rather, John generously decided – that for our 40th wedding anniversary later this year, we’d give ourselves what we call The Machine, but what its German manufacturers have named Thermomix.

This machine, which is slightly bigger than a Kenwood mixer, does every component part of cooking, except that it does not bake. You cannot buy it (in the UK anyway) over the counter. You have to attend a demonstration. My friend Anne had attended the wedding of her cousin in Australia and had come across this machine and she arranged for a few of us to see it. I was impressed.

Initially (for someone as useless with technology as I am) it is quite daunting, but John painstakingly went through the (long) manual, and I began tentatively to try it out. You receive a cookbook as part of your package, and I decided I would work my way through all the recipes as a way of learning the techniques. You can follow a preprogrammed recipe which will tell you step by step what to do, but this doesn’t suit me at all and I aim to understand the processes and proceed with matters under my own control.

You can get in a rut with your cooking, though I hope I am not as bad as what a newspaper article I recently read proclaimed as the average – ie nine dishes which the cook repeated. I fine that hard to believe, but then I found it hard to believe that some people had a seven day repeating menu – so if it was Thursday it would be macaroni. You’d die of boredom, if not of malnutrition.

The machine can cook an entire meal within its own resources – so I have experimented and made fish with potatoes, vegetables and hollandaise sauce, steaming the fish and vegetables, and it worked quite well although personally I do not like the taste of steamed vegetables.

Now that I am familiar with it, I enjoy using it. I have made hollandaise sauce, bechamel sauce and caramel. It makes quite difficult puddings (and great favourites of mine) zabaglione, and ills flottant, a doddle. You just put the ingredients in, set it for time, heat and speed, and then you come back in nine minutes and it’s ready. Its tirami su is so good that even I, who have disliked all coffee flavoured puddings since my flatmate in London used to make wagonloads of bread pudding made with coffee instead milk, have been converted to a devotee. John was feeling queasy the other day and fancied fish cakes, which of course I didn’t have, so I made them; and they were good. It also makes refreshing smoothies and a kind of squashy sorbet (which would become an ice if you froze it, but we always eat it first.) Recently I’ve made some cleaning creams and hand creams using only natural products. Another advantage is that we know exactly what we are eating,

I find we waste less fruit and vegetables, because fruit can become a smoothie, and you can quickly pop in vegetables that need using, chop them small, boil then, and return them to the Thermomix to chop again until it’s a smooth tasty soup. You can very easily rustle up some bread to enjoy with the soup.

The few disadvantages are that it is quite heavy to hold in one hand while spooning out the contents with the other, and if you get the timing wrong, out by just a few seconds, your fricassee of vegetables has degenerated into mush.

I bought an extra jug, which is extremely handy.

I would recommend it. There’s no doubt it’s prodigiously expensive, but since I’ve got it, I use it several times a day,

So, a lovely present for our 4oth. You can keep your rubies. What use are they anyway?


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I’ve been examining a rather silly Kindle book on acquiring ‘charisma’ – one of those middle of the night transactions when you’re not fully operational and in the clear light of dawn you’re inclined to doubt you ever made those purchases. (The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane: I do NOT recommend it.)

What is charisma anyway? It’s a kind of star quality, isn’t it? Is it charm? In my opinion, Barack Obama has it. Vladimir Putin (though he has many interesting qualities and can charm if he exerts himself) does not. Cameron is too boring to possess it; Osborne is too cold. Boris has it in spades, but Boris is neither trustworthy nor virtuous which goes to show that the possession of charisma is not necessarily a pre-requisite for heroes. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama is said to have it – but then so, probably, had Hitler.

One of the exercises suggested while you are cranking up your charisma chart and if you were nervous about some forthcoming event, was to write an account of the happening as you would wish it to be.

Let’s suppose you are giving a talk. So you write as follows: As you arrive at the venue, the chief man is waiting on the steps to escort you in. A group of beautiful ladies is hanging around hoping to catch your eye. The audience falls instantly silent when you get up to speak and they hang on your every word. You triumph over hecklers. The audience guffaws at your jokes. When you come to the end, you get a standing ovation. Their main man thanks you fulsomely and predicts that you are bound for high office. The most beautiful of the lovely ladies invites you to her nearby home for dinner, and advises you that her husband is spending the week in Paris. As she drives you home in her expensive sports car, you take a phone call saying that you have been named Speaker of the Year.

(Incidentally, as well as not being sufficiently charismatic, you are also vain, self obsessed, a cad and a bounder, but blessed as you no doubt are with far sighted clarity of vision, you probably know this.) Maybe you think charisma will conceal these deficiencies.

While I am all for exercises that increase your confidence, I think this is quite ridiculous and one of two things is likely to happen. One is that these fabulous things don’t occur and you are seriously disappointed. The other is that your judgement is hopelessly skewed and you begin to believe that you are a Very Superior Person, God has chosen you for a special task, you are the only person in the entire country who can be its leader, etc etc If everything does not go your way, you begin to feel decidedly ill-treated. You deserve more than ordinary people. After all, you’ve got charisma.

As for ‘acquiring’ charisma, I’m not convinced it’s either possible or desirable. It’s a bit like being beautiful. If you are an average, personable, attractive man or woman, such as most of us are you can certainly do a variety of things which will enhance your appearance, but you can never be a drop dead beauty if you haven’t been born with the face. And why should you want to be anyway? You’re plenty good enough as it is.

So why would one want to be charismatic? Charisma, I think, is about persuading people of our argument by force of personality rather than by reason. Why should you wish to do this? Just be the best of your own lovely self, and as truthful, kind and generous as you find it possible to be. Don’t waste your time writing fairy stories which if they did happen would on no account be good for you or for anyone else.

We don’t need people with charisma. We NEED integrity, courage, patience and good sense. If we had those things, we’d get truth and justice as well.