HANDBAGS AT DAWN (OR WHENEVE R YOU LIKE. )

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I need a new handbag. Today is my birthday and my husband, asking me what I would like for a present, nodded when I told him this and I knew he did not foresee the difficulties which would arise in obtaining one. For him it was a simple matter: a handbag, what colour, any other requirements? Left to his own devices he would have gone out and bought one and presented it to me, nicely wrapped, this morning. There would benothing wrong with his choice either. He has good taste. It would have been a nice handbag. I tell him that I must see it for myself and we should expect it to take some time to find what I am looking for.

Because I am unbelievably picky about handbags. Although I own 5 or 6 of different colours, in practice I very rarely wear anything other than my black leather basic. I cannot be bothered shuffling my possessions from one bag to another. Having found one, I keep it close to me. The one I’m reluctantly replacing has been repaired twice. I bought it in a village nearWinchester, whose name I cannot now remember which has a beautiful chalk trout river with outstandingly clear water.

I’m not looking for a cheap bag but Iwould be unwilling to pay more than say a couple of hundred pounds for it. I have no desire at all for a fashionable bag and paying £3,000 for a handbag seems to me a disgraceful extravagance.

What I would like visually – a small, square, boxy handbag, black leather and with its metal trim silverand a fastener that slotted into place with a click does not hold my requirements these days. For many years I bought my bags in France or Belgium and I wore a European man’s handbag.

But now the list of requirements is rather long. It has to be leather and black with silver trims. It must come within my budget. It must have a long and a short strap. It must be light enough for me to carry myself and it must not be ultra feminine as John will carry it when we are together.

It must have room for: a tin containing my drugs; a small bottle of water; a small plastic cup in case I need to take an effervescent drug; a small purse; a small bag containing the key to disabled toilets; a small pack of paper tissues; a small bag containing mirror, comb and lipstick; a handkerchief; my mobile phone and a notebook and pen and house keys.

The quest may take some time!

PS I had imagined a 6 month’s leisurely perusal of leather shops and websites but I had forgotten my partner’s legendary drive to complete what he has started. Facedwith hundreds of handbags on the internet, a dozen of which met my requirements, I thought, resistance is futile.

The bag arrives tomorrow.

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KINGSMUIR

I was born in Scotland in 1949 in the town of Forfar, Angus and I lived there for a few years until my parents bought a house in a nearby village called Kingsmuir, and we moved there. We left there when I was 8, and in the sixty years that have followed I have spent at most half an hour in Forfar, and never returned to Kingsmuir. But this year, staying in Edinburgh and tiring of the over-crowded city, the idea of finding that village, using Sat Nav appealed to me. So we set off North and were soon whizzing smartly through Fife, across the Tay Bridge and up into Angus. Just short of Forfar we got a road off saying Kingsmuir.

I was surprised at how flat and wide the fields were. The land was rich and prosperous. It is odd how your memory correctly remembers the scale and size of some of the buildings but does not have an accurate picture of others. Our house in Kingsmuir was a single story house built of stone and called Dunvegan by some previous owner. We had an enormous garden where my father kept bees, and chickens and a turkey cock which was vicious and used to attack my brother. I had planted a sycamore tree in the garden, but this was no longer there as the land had been sold off and houses built on it, The spectacular view down the valley was undisturbed though and the farmhouse where the farmer’s son lived who contracted to marry me when we grew up was still standing, likewise the wood with the wild cherries where the pigs lived. I had remembered all this in the correct scale, as was the length of the walk I took to school which was about ten minutes in length.

To my great surprise the school was still standing, (a ruin now) though I remembered it as being about twice the size it actually was. It had only two rooms, and they still had the fireplaces that held the stoves that kept us warm. Our teacher, a Miss Sorley (I thought at first she was Miss Sorry) was a pretty young woman. She used to send me into the big girls’ (and boys’) room to choose a reading book from their selection. I noticed that when she took us out on a nature walk, she looked very tired after she had lifted each child up to see into a bird’s nest with baby birds in it. When she left, the class gave her a tea set, in which (this was in the fifties) each cup was a different colour. I thought this was extremely stylish and there was born a love of ceramics which is still with me.

I also had my first encounter with The Bully and with a cooperative group while here. The bully was a fat, ugly girl with a squint, unflattering glasses, freckles and lank reddish hair who terrorised everyone. Although I had been born in the town only a few miles away, I was a stranger in the village and therefore a target. I looked at this unprepossessing specimen of girlhood and thought there was no way I was going to put up with meddling from her. I concealed my resentment however and waited my opportunity. The bully was tough and strong – I would come off the worst in any fight, so cunning was called for. One day we were throwing bean bags to one another. I waited until it was my turn to throw to the bully and then I flung the bean bag with all my might, straight in her face. She doubled over, bellowing. Immediately I called out to the teacher, Oh miss, I’ve made a mistake in throwing the beanbag and it’s hit poor Muriel in the face and she’s hurt. I am so sorry! The teacher accepted my story, but the bully knew that I had hit her deliberately. I apologised profusely to her, but she knew I would keep up attacks on her if she did not desist. I had given her a face saving exit; so she graciously accepted my apology. She continued to be the bully, (I in no way challenged her) so long as she left me well alone, which she did. In the many schools I subsequently went to. The bully would come and have a look at me, think, Nah, and leave me unmolested.

Looking at our toilet block, I remembered something I had forgotten. It was a low building with a sloping roof. The school wall butted on to it. Children used to climb up on the school wall, scramble up the roof, and sit astride the apex, legs dangling. (Can you imagine reactions to this activity today?) Boys and tough girls could negotiate this unaided, but I needed to be pulled up to the highest point of the roof, and helped down. It was great fun sitting up high on the roof, (in reality it was not high at all) with the wind in one’s hair and a delicious sense of adventure and wrong doing. But I needed help from others – which was always forthcoming – and it taught me that although I believed as a tenet of faith that ultimately you had to walk alone, much could be accomplished by team work.

When it came the time to go, I left there without a backward glance, and I barely thought about that place again. From when I left there, I belonged to no place. But I can see, looking back on it, that Kingsmuir was a lovely village, and a good place to set out from on the long journey of one’s life.

REFERENDUMS?

Someone asked me, last week, in the middle of a political discussion, what I thought would happen next. I had absolutely no idea.

I am continually surprised by how politician’s judgement of the mood of the electorate is frequently so wrong.

There seems to be a general assumption that if a election were called now, Labour would win. I voted Labour in the last election, largely because Jeremy Corbyn had been so badly treated by his party. (I know there is no logical connection between our mid Sussex constituency where we rejoice in having Nicholas Soames, friend of Prince Charles, for our MP, and Jeremy Corbyn, but voting isn’t a logical matter.). But if he with his red associates stood a fair chance of winning, would I vote the same? I doubt it.

I thought the Labour Party had behaved abominably but the Tory party’s disloyalty and poor treatment of Teresa May surpasses even Labour’s poor conduct. I’m not a Tory, and I’m not an admirer of Mrs May (she wears leopard skin shoes!). But she is in an impossible position. The people who should be supporting her are speaking out in public against her. Mrs May is perhaps not brilliant, but she has sticking power. She gets up every morning and she puts her best effort into her impossible task, day after day. She keeps her courage flying even though every man’s hand is against her. She doesn’t lose her temper. As a representative of Britain she is dignified and calm. She does not personally antagonise one the way Mrs Thatcher did. For these virtues one could even overlook the leopard skin shoes!

I think the mood of the British people is confused, alarmed and resentful. We were precipitated into a referendum by Cameron (in an effort to subdue a rabid element of his own party) with insufficient information. I was horrified to see, when the vote was cast, that the Leave side did not expect to win, and had no plan. After 18 months we are none the wiser about what the actual outcome will be in any given scenario. It has been an absolute mess from beginning to end and it’s not improving in any way. Most people do not understand the implications fully (I certainly do not) and I’m beginning to suspect that nobody actually understands the whole picture.

Not only do I not know what will happen next; I don’t know what SHOULD happen next. I would doubt that an agreement will be reached; the Tory party (or elements within it) and the DUP will see to that. They both appear to be obsessed with issues that are more important to them than EU membership. It seems to be the case that we shouldn’t have held the Referendum; but we did. I don’t see that we can keep holding referendums until we get the ‘right’ answer.

If the issue is put to the ‘people’s vote’ (was it not people who voted in the first place?) again I don’t know what the outcome would be. There is a case for the electorate being alarmed into voting for the status quo and staying put. But I wouldn’t count on it. We’re so disgusted with the whole business – the remainers, the leavers, and the European politicians – that we might just wash our hands of the whole affair and decide to put distance between them and ourselves. It’s a brave – or foolhardy – politician who would gamble on getting the ‘right’ outcome.

Mrs May is as good a person as any to be in charge. Can you think of anyone who would do better?

The only thing I’m sure of is that the whole thing is an absolute mess.

visits to long remembered places, c

c

This picture shows my Aunt MAIRI getting into a taxi outside our housem DUNVEGAN, in the village of Kingsmuir, Angus afer a visit to us, waved off by my mother and me.   I AM about 6 years old.   Picture courtesy of Eugene Windsor.

 

I was born in Scotland in 1949 in the town of Forfar, Angus and I lived there for a few years until my parents bought a house in a nearby village called Kingsmuir, and we moved there. We left there when I was 8, and in the sixty years that have followed I have spent at most half an hour in Forfar, and never returned to Kingsmuir. But this year, staying in Edinburgh and tiring of the over-crowded city, the idea of finding that village, using Sat Nav appealed to me. So we set off North and were soon whizzing smartly through Fife, across the Tay Bridge and up into Angus. Just short of Forfar we got a road off saying Kingsmuir.

I was surprised at how flat and wide the fields were. The land was rich and prosperous. It is odd how your memory correctly remembers the scale and size of some of the buildings but does not have an accurate picture of others. Our house in Kingsmuir was a single story house built of stone and called Dunvegan by some previous owner. We had an enormous garden where my father kept bees, and chickens and a turkey cock which was vicious and used to attack my brother. I had planted a sycamore tree in the garden, but this was no longer there as the land had been sold off and houses built on it, The spectacular view down the valley was undisturbed though and the farmhouse where the farmer’s son lived who contracted to marry me when we grew up was still standing, likewise the wood with the wild cherries where the pigs lived. I had remembered all this in the correct scale, as was the length of the walk I took to school which was about ten minutes in length.

To my great surprise the school was still standing, (a ruin now) though I remembered it as being about twice the size it actually was. It had only two rooms, and they still had the fireplaces that held the stoves that kept us warm. Our teacher, a Miss Sorley (I thought at first she was Miss Sorry) was a pretty young woman. She used to send me into the big girls’ (and boys’) room to choose a reading book from their selection. I noticed that when she took us out on a nature walk, she looked very tired after she had lifted each child up to see into a bird’s nest with baby birds in it. When she left, the class gave her a tea set, in which (this was in the fifties) each cup was a different colour. I thought this was extremely stylish and there was born a love of ceramics which is still with me.

I also had my first encounter with The Bully and with a cooperative group while here. The bully was a fat, ugly girl with a squint, unflattering glasses, freckles and lank reddish hair who terrorised everyone. Although I had been born in the town only a few miles away, I was a stranger in the village and therefore a target. I looked at this unprepossessing specimen of girlhood and thought there was no way I was going to put up with meddling from her. I concealed my resentment however and waited my opportunity. The bully was tough and strong – I would come off the worst in any fight, so cunning was called for. One day we were throwing bean bags to one another. I waited until it was my turn to throw to the bully and then I flung the bean bag with all my might, straight in her face. She doubled over, bellowing. Immediately I called out to the teacher, Oh miss, I’ve made a mistake in throwing the beanbag and it’s hit poor Muriel in the face and she’s hurt. I am so sorry! The teacher accepted my story, but the bully knew that I had hit her deliberately. I apologised profusely to her, but she knew I would keep up attacks on her if she did not desist. I had given her a face saving exit; so she graciously accepted my apology. She continued to be the bully, (I in no way challenged her) so long as she left me well alone, which she did. In the many schools I subsequently went to. The bully would come and have a look at me, think, Nah, and leave me unmolested.

Looking at our toilet block, I remembered something I had forgotten. It was a low building with a sloping roof. The school wall butted on to it. Children used to climb up on the school wall, scramble up the roof, and sit astride the apex, legs dangling. (Can you imagine reactions to this activity today?) Boys and tough girls could negotiate this unaided, but I needed to be pulled up to the highest point of the roof, and helped down. It was great fun sitting up high on the roof, (in reality it was not high at all) with the wind in one’s hair and a delicious sense of adventure and wrong doing. But I needed help from others – which was always forthcoming – and it taught me that although I believed as a tenet of faith that ultimately you had to walk alone, much could be accomplished by team work.

When it came the time to go, I left there without a backward glance, and I barely thought about that place again. From when I left there, I belonged to no place. But I can see, looking back on it, that Kingsmuir was a lovely village, and a good place to set out from on the long journey of one’s life.

UK CARAVAN HOLIDAY 2018

We’ve been on our travels with our caravan throughout the UK. We had a few adventures with the caravan which I won’t bore you with (all solved eventually by our hero.) The caravan is very comfortable and we like using it.

Our first stop was on Derwentwater in the Lake District which, save for some owls was the quietest site I have ever visited. Our previous stopover which was at Tebay at Westmorland has ceased to be a caravan site which we were rather disgruntled about (no-one asked us!) but this site, although pleasant is too far from the M6 for us to use frequently, We explored Keswick which is an attractive town, and also visited the house where William Wordsworth grew up which is a very elegant and attractive Georgian house in Cockermouth, and Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where he lived. which was dank, dreary and horrible. I personally thought Wordsworth was an indifferent poet. He was Poet laureate for a number of years, accepting a quite substantial payment for his services and never wrote a single poem as laureate. We visited the coastal towns of Maryport and Workington but did not find them attractive. There is no doubt that that the Lake District is a lovely place (each lake and valley is quite different) with some good-looking towns and villages, but I can never get used to how parts that appear to be fairly remote are invariably teeming with bands of walkers lurking behind every tree.

We then installed the caravan on the Edinburgh site. One does not expect quietness on a city site, and this park down in Granton near the river was convenient(an area of Edinburgh I did not know at all) but the whole of the North part of the city must be severely affected by aircraft noise. We were on the flightpath of incoming aircraft I think – we had some quite windy nights and we could hear their brakes squealing and became quite anxious on their behalf. I thought aircraft were halted between the hours of midnight and 6 am but this was certainly not the case here where they were still coming staggering home at 2 am and started up again at 4.30.

We visited Joanna and attended her birthday party, and spent a few pleasant days in Glasgow, and visited my brother in Fife, crossing over the new road bridge to come back in to Edinburgh. It is slightly disorienting to revisit a city which was once yours but is no longer. You think you know it well and in part you do, but you can suddenly find yourself ‘lost’ in redeveloped areas. It is fun to be a tourist though.

We took a bus tour on an open-topped bus and were surprised how close together the famous buildings were. Edinburgh is a beautiful city.

We toured Britannia. It is surprisingly modest and attractive. The queen’s choice of furniture and soft furnishings, while not fashionable (it was fitted out in the fifties) was elegant and could have been lived in quite comfortably today. The ship was very well adapted for sightseers and good provision was made for disabled access. Considering the queen’s long service, her age and her reputed enjoyment of the vessel, plus the use the Government made of Britannia, it seems very churlish and short-sighted of Blair’s government that he did not prolong the ship’s life while the queen lived. I felt however that the accommodation provided for ratings was disgraceful, and that in a 20th century ship it should have been possible to provide a comfortable private space, albeit small, for everyone.

We visited the town where I was born in Angus from Edinburgh, but I will write about that separately. We visited friends while here and met friends in Edinburgh. Alexandra came through in the train and we showed her the university area and the different sections of the city. We went with her to Holyrood Palace where we both visited the Palace and saw an exhibition of Canaletto paintings bought in a job lot by George III. They were not perhaps the artist’s finest, but a Canaletto is not to be sneezed at! We had lunch here.

And so we left Edinburgh and came down the East Coast road to Berwick on Tweed. The site faced the sea. We looked at Berwick and then drove to Kelso. We also visited Floors Castle, with which I was decidedly unimpressed. It is vast, like Versailles perhaps, (it is in the French style). No-one could possibly require this much accommodation. It was supposedly adapted for wheel chair use but the paths were gravel; there was only one accessible toilet a long distance (over gravel) and the care of visitors did not seem to figure high in their priorities. Also what was available to the public was a series of rooms in one of the needless wings furnished lavishly in a very extravagant French style, with extra-ordinarily elaborate and ugly French furniture. Apparently the castle had been restyled by an American heiress with unlimited funds and very poor taste, part of whose family were French. These rooms although furnished as ballroom, dining room, etc (there were no bedrooms or kitchen on display) had never actually been used for the purposes they were dressed for and one rather got the impression that the owners had decided to benefit from the financial advantages of having visitors and complied with the requirements to the lowest standards, and from their ugly collection of awful furniture had thrown together a couple of rooms. They can keep Floors Castle as far as I’m concerned.

We also visited Lindisfarne which is lovely but was very busy at 10 am and as we returned across the causeway, battalions of buses were fighting their way over.

A long day down the M1 and then, seeking entry to visit our last site, Moreton-in-the- Marsh in the Cotswolds. Here we visited John’s sister and her husband and son, and then took Helen out to lunch in Stow. The next day we visited friends in Iffley in Oxford. (Will write more separately). We chose NOT to visit Highgrove, garden of the Prince of Wales. It cost £150 for 2 people to visit the garden and have lunch, which is daylight robbery. We went instead to Burford, and to a mill that sold throws and tweeds, although we did not buy any(this time.)

So back to our site and then the short journey home where we got here by lunch time.

The weather was mild and often sunny; there were storms but they were mostly throughout the night. We enjoyed our new caravan. It was lovely to see so many friends; and if we didn’t get round to you, I hope we’ll be back in years to come.

My cup runneth over.

Today, August 20 2018, is our wedding anniversary. We have been married for 42 years.

When one looks back from the vantage point of a long marriage on your thoughts as you started out it’s rather alarming how blithely you set off on that perilous journey; how little you really knew your partner, and how lucky you were that it turned out well.

There’s a kind of instinct about your choice. You know when you meet the man that you will marry that he is indeed the one, and you realise that you never felt this before. I had no doubts that he was the man for me and I consulted no-one in deciding this. From time to time people have asked me, Should I marry so-and-so, and I’ve always said, No, not if you have to ask other people. The Irish poem quoted below, Bridthat individual determination to have this wife and no other and to disregard all opposition.

There are many roles enacted by marriage partners – lover, parent, colleague, fellow traveller, social partner, business associate etc and these make a rich relationship, but I think the most important and lasting one is that of friend. It’s important that you like and value your spouse as well as love them. I’m interested in John’s opinion on all matters. We agree broadly on most things. I used to think that differences of political opinion did not matter, but I came to see that they do (to me anyway). But although it is good to be of the same outlook in life, there has to be room for differences of opinion and the tolerance to get along regardless. It would be very boring if your views were exactly the same.

You have to want the same kind of life too. It’s no good if one of you wants a smallholding with chickens and goats and the other wants a city apartment with no kitchen. It helps if you establish this early in the relationship!

The other thing you should recognise is that every marriage is completely different (although they all have things in common) and it is almost impossible to understand how other people’s marriages actually work. You look at the wife and you think, what on earth does he see in her? Probably she’s looking at you and wondering exactly the same.

In the beginning you perhaps idealise your partner, but as you mature you come to recognise that he/she is not perfect (and that you may have one or two minor failings!) but you can forgive them their weaknesses and trust that they will overlook yours.

All that matters in the end is that your partner in life treats you with affection and respect, and that you honour the promises you made.

We went to Brighton Marina and had lunch, accompanied by our lovely grandson, Ewan.

My cup runneth over.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Bridin Vesey (translated by Donagh Macdonagh.)

This is the opening verse. I can provide the other two should anyone wish them.

I would marry Bridin Vesey
Without a shoe or petticoat
A comb, a cloak or dowry
Or even one clean shift..
And I would make novena
Or imitate the hermits
Who spend their lives in fasting
All for a Christmas gift.
Oh cheek like dogwood fruiting
O cuckoo of the mountain,
I would send the darkness packing
If you would rise and go
Against the ban of clergy
And the sour lips of your parents
And take me at an altar stone
In spite of all Mayo.

CAVING IN

CAVING IN

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!