Wednesday, January 17, 2007


A late showing

I was tagged by Cliff on 5 things people don't know about me.

1. I'm a bit slow on the uptake (oh crikey, perhaps people do know). This was on 7th January and it's taken me until now to realise what it meant. Oh, you mean tagged, oh, right, like now you're it, I get it.

2. I like reggae - With a first husband who was really sniffy about music that wasn't opera or classical, I'm ashamed to say that I never admitted liking it, but once I was free I went on my own to Poland and I remember the joyous feeling of stepping off the bus in Cracow and hearing UB40 playing Red Red Wine.

3. I have an irrational fear of getting lost. Once, when I was about 10, on a visit to my Grandmother in London, I lost my way home from the park. I thought I recognised a row of houses, but of course it was just one of hundreds of similar rows of houses. I began to walk quicker, broke into a run and finally weeping hysterically, was stopped by someone and taken to the police station. But most humiliating of all was that I didn’t know my Granmother’s address, so I had to stay at the police station until I was claimed, and when I finally walked into her house many hours later, it was to merciless teasing from the whole family. So now I fantasise about leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to guide me back home, Hansel and Gretal style, but as that’s not very practical, when I go somewhere new, I spend the journey memorising landmarks. If I do get lost, I never quite control the sweaty palms and pounding heart.

4. I did go to Machu Pichu, but I never actually saw it, because my loved one developed altitude sickness and threw up the whole of the train journey, including all over the railway tracks. He tried to insist that I went on without him but somehow the magnificence of the site kind of faded in importance, but one day I hope to give it another go.

5. I get really passionate about bread. I hate that horrible white sliced pap they sell in supermarkets. It doesn't have to be wholemeal, but it has to have some real texture, preferably with bits of grain or nuts in and enough bite to test the roots of your teeth and above all, dense - or as they say in the country - it weighs 'eavy.

My third week of jury service, a new trial and the courtroom's freezing. The judge says "ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I apologise for the room being so cold. If you're cold tomorrow ..." yes, go on your Honour, you'll fix it? "please feel free to add extra layers of clothes". Strange that he can order a man to prison for the rest of his life, but can't order another log on the fire.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Objection, your Honour

A nephew of mine once went to Court to give evidence for the defence, causing his step-father to comment that with defence witnesses like that, there was no need for a prosecution. The memory popped into my mind again as I started my stint of jury service last week, not because the defence was bad, just that the police and the prosecution lawyer looked a whole lot dodgier than the defendant. The prosecution lawyer, looking about 18, with a wig and gown from a dressing-up box, constantly misplaced things and had to ask the defence lawyer for copies of documents and managed to make laboratory rhyme with lavatory every time he said it. Observing fellow jurors is as interesting as the trial itself, from our youngest member - a beautiful girl with a porcelain complexion, who provided a little glamour and drama, draping herself seductively around the radiator whilst the rest of us sat round the table enthusing about how much we were looking forward to this duty, by declaring languidly that she’d had to turn down film work to do this, so it certainly wasn’t a joy for her and disputing the randomness of the selection process, because 3 weeks earlier her father had been called, a week later, her mother and now her; to the chronically shy man who didn’t say a single word – not even his verdict, which he wrote on a piece of paper. It’s all very friendly and helpful with a little talk beforehand on what we should do (tell if anyone approached us about the case we were trying, or if we recognised anyone, write a note if we wanted to go to the toilet or felt ill) and shouldn’t do (talk to the judge, loiter on the front steps - that was for the lawyers, take our phone into court – not because it might go off and disturb proceedings, but it’s for the 12 jurors only to consider the evidence and a mobile phone represents the rest of the world) and what expenses we could claim (sadly, not my £14 town centre parking fee). It took an age for things to swing into action on the first day and it was almost one o’clock before the jury was selected and sworn in, when we were promptly sent to lunch. Back at 2 pm and at 3 pm the judge said he was going to be merciful – to the jury that is – and spare us any more technical analysis of black plastic bags and gave us a 15 minute break. At 3.45 he sent us home for the day to rest our over-stretched brains – with less than a 2 hour working day, no wonder the law is such a popular profession! There was a bizarre little ceremony for 3 days of a clerk calling out my name to check if I’d arrived, rather than pointing out on the first day that ticking off your name on the list at reception wasn’t an optional extra. I hadn’t spotted this list, being a rather unobservant sort, but keep wondering if he'd have done that every day for the remainder of my jury service if I hadn’t made enquiries as to why I was being ‘picked on’. Two surprising new changes in the law were both relevant to the case I was on – that of a guy charged with possession of heroin with intent to supply. Firstly, the jury can now be told about previous convictions, in this case three, for possession only and secondly, the police are now eligible for jury service and we had a policeman on our jury. I’m almost ok with the first one, but not at all comfortable with the second – especially as the defence’s main argument centred around whether the police, in testing only one of the heroin bags for DNA (the heroin wasn’t found at his house), had done a thorough enough job. As you can imagine, our policeman was keen to emphasise the effort the police would have gone to to secure a successful prosecution, so no surprise that he found the defendant “guilty as sin”! But since so many cases rely on police testimony, I’m not convinced that another policeman can be totally impartial.

We're out and about and see a cute dog or cat and no matter that their paws, jaws and bums have been in contact with all sorts of things, we're happy to stroke them and make a fuss of them; we have a little terracotta pot on our patio with a terracotta mouse eating a piece of terracotta cheese - ah, that's so cute. Yet I go to the cleaning cupboard yesterday, where I find evidence of a mouse's recent visit and what do I do - I freak out, take everything out, throw out anything that's obviously been nibbled (for God's sake it's only disinfectant impregnanted floor cloths), scrub, bleach and my loved one comes back with a mouse trap. I think I have a problem with perspective here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


an ugly picture from my scrap book

A truly shocking, gut-wrenching, unbelievable thing happened yesterday. I had a fight. Ok, not a slugging it out in a bar-room sort of brawl, but plenty of cardigan pulling, wrist wrenching and loud, loud shouting in the street. It's never happened to me before and now I’m cried-out, shell-shocked and incredulous that the normally non-confrontational person that I am could have been involved in such an exhibition with someone with whom I’m generally on the friendliest of terms. I can’t excuse it because I shouldn’t need to respond to everything that frustrates me, especially when the other one’s having a tough time. I can’t really explain it either, except to say that once I’d made the decision to speak up, I became a terrier and couldn’t let go. So when a remark on the usual subject of the hurt she believes has been done to her came up, an inner voice asked if I was going to be a gutless wimp again and let it go unchallenged. So I challenged it. And she stormed out. I should have let her go, I know I should have let her go and then there would have been no fight. I don't know whether it was an act of vanity or insanity that persuaded me I could sort everything out if I could just stop her stomping off. So I followed her and for half a mile we were engaged in what seemed like a life and death struggle to win - for me the time to tell her that her obsession had made her blind to the hurt she'd inflicted on others, for her the right to refuse to listen. I lost the fight and I lost the right to claim to be a rational person. Because of an overwhelming frustration at constantly being accused of a bias that isn't there, at seeing a good looking woman with charm and energy look on everything in life so negatively and of remembering Rob’s uncomplaining fight for life, when he’d have sold his soul for just one of those days she sees as pointless, I lost control and that makes me feel very, very depressed.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Resolutions for 2007

1. Yes, that old hardy perennial - lose weight. I started fantasising about how it would feel to be back to my lowest ever weight, and remembered Gary Linekar’s quip when asked what was the least he’d ever weighed and he said 7 pounds, so no, not that low. But I’ve just tried to reckon up how many times I’ve lost 10 pounds and I can’t, but I’m obviously losing the same 10 pounds, otherwise I would weigh 7 pounds. I’m not actually that much overweight – If I were melted down and re-distributed I’d be quite happy.
2. Stop wasting food. This isn’t one of those minor adjustments to daily life sort of resolution, but a really life-changing one, because my problem isn’t waste, but indecision - I’m the most indecisive person I know (I think) - so it doesn’t mean eating that extra slice of quiche instead of throwing it away – the sin is in buying it in the first place. If I stopped wasting food I’d have to plan and that’s not something that comes easily to me. Do I fancy chicken or pork, roasted vegetables, salad or broccoli? – tell you what let’s buy it all and I’ll sort it out later but then I find I didn’t buy the oranges to make that pork thingy, so have to make something else instead, which means half the ingredients I did buy are wasted. What should I get for the guests we’re expecting? I could make one of my yummy fish pies because I know David loves fish, but then again Mary doesn’t, so should I make a meaty pie too? And our little Johnny doesn’t like spicy stuff, so should I get something bland as well, and ooh yes, should I get ice-cream, for those unhealthy ones who don’t like fresh fruit too – peaches, pineapple or pears? – not sure, better take them all - oh and what sort of snacky things to eat before the meal? FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, SIT DOWN - THINK ABOUT IT FOR A WHILE – THEN MAKE A LIST. Now that’s something I’m excellent at, there are more lists (oh you know, DIY jobs, people to write to, bills to pay, trips to plan etc) in our house than items of cutlery. So how hard can it be?
3. Change my reading habits. I start with a feast of books, a little notebook by my side to jot down memorable things and a determination that this time it will be different – I will not only r-e-a-d s-l-o-w-l-y, but have several books on the go at once for different moods and times. But instead of genteel bite-size pieces - admiring the presentation as I go, savouring every morsel - once I’ve decided on the tastiest one, I shovel it in like a ravenous peasant, devouring as much as possible in one sitting, choking on the last few crumbs – with the occasional burp as a reminder of the flavour. Then, to know what it really tasted like, I’ve got to read it all again. This new book Previous Convictions is helping me because each chapter is a separate topic, so there’s a natural stopping point, but when it’s gone, I’ll have to go solo.
4. To blog more regularly – I've recently added a couple more blogs to my favourites - Everything is Electric, Wenders and Little Red Boat and I feel really disappointed when I look in and there isn’t a new entry. It made me realise that if you want your readers to stick with you, you have to make it worth their while clicking on to your site.

So, I'm not going to mention how long my New Year resolutions usually last - this year will be different.

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