This year my children bought me a Liberty Advent Calendar for my birthday. It is absolutely fabulous. I love it. A big box full of 25 little boxes to open every day from the 1st Decemer until 25th. So far it has revealed: special bath oil, face cream, lipstick, body cream, and a whole load of other things. I’ve been posting over on Instagram each day. But, just to make the whole thing more fun for the family, The Man and I shot a video of me opening the box for the first couple of days. This quickly became boring, so we made a little bit more of it, creating a character or a storyline each day and made little movies. I struggled but mastered (to a basic degree) how to use IMovie adding titles, music, speeding up the film and all sorts. Thinking up ideas wasn’t a problem but it began to take up most of my day and I have other important things to do! Like finish writing my memoir and creating more poetry — which I’m very much into at the moment — so today I resolved to stop making the mini series of Opening the Liberty Advent Calendar 2020 (what will she do next?). We haven’t completely abandoned the project, but will film a few random days between now and Christmas Day. I cannot possibly divulge what themes they might be. In the meantime, I thought you might find it mildly amusing to watch a couple of the earlier box openings, so I’ve uploaded number 6 and number 8 here.
Both clips were filmed before we realised it was better to use landscape mode on the iphone.
I know, I know, third blog post in just over a week, I told you last time, it’s like the buses. But, I have to post about my brother’s (Tony Hatch) fabulous 80th birthday party, before it’s old news. We had a ball on the Erasmus, a river boat on the Thames. It was amazing!
Erasmus Coming to Collect us
Even though I was born in Ruislip, lived there for over sixteen years and went to London frequently, I have NEVER taken a cruise up the river. It was fantastic. We left St Katherine’s Pier at 7pm and went first up river towards Chiswick. What a great view of the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and MI5 (my sister assured me it was, because it was green, but what do I know?). We turned somewhere, not sure where but it was beyond Battersea and then proceeded down river. Past the London Eye, the 02, Docklands, and out through The Thames Barrier. I was mightily impressed with the whole trip and would do it again next weekend if I could. Only minor problem was that they dropped us back at a different pier…had to find our way back to Tower Bridge and the car. It was okay, except for a load of drunk people from another boat…or were they from ours? Only joking!
We were treated to a three course dinner; prawn, smoked salmon and a fish mousse starter; tender lamb cutlets, spinach and some delicious potato concotion; summer pudding and cream. All served with lashings of red or white wine. I stuck to water, which was just as well because at the end of the evening, after my brother had negleted to blow out the candles quickly enough, and virtually set fire to the cake, he asked me to get up and sing that old song, Push A Little Button recorded in 1966 (a flop) and then a minor hit in 2010 when the BBC used it for their TV Licencing advert. Yes folks that was me!
Among the other artists who performed were Claire Sweeny, Cassidy Jenson, Richard Kerr (he sang the wonderful song Mandy which he wrote), Jae Alexander, Michael Dore, Roger Greenaway. Hope I haven’t missed anyone. I did see Tony Blackburn and Des O’Connor on board too.
Tony sang Downtown, Messing About on the River and several more of his wonderful hit songs. I am always amazed at how many he’s written. Of course the best thing was seeing my nieces, nephews and their siblings and other members of the extended family. Some from New Zealand. It was great to mix with the celebs for an evening but I don’t think I could keep up with the lifestyle for too long. Nice to dip my toe in though.
Me in front of London Eye
Me, Tony, Jean
Me and my Bro
Me Houses of Parl
Some of the family …My apoligies to all those members of the family whose photograph I didn’t get…there are so many of us! Isn’t it always the way, you get home and think, ‘how come I didn’t take more photos?’
Thank you Tony and Maggie, for organising such a tremendous event. I for one, really appreciated your generosity. You are great party hosts.
Wayne Hollis Jackson was driving along the old Eagle Trail on his way back from the range. He was still a good fifteen mile away from home and the snow was hitting the windscreen of the truck like a hail of Lux soap flakes. The Jackson’s had always been cowboys, but he was sure glad not to be riding a horse in this weather. After a hard day, he was looking forward to getting back to a warm fire, and a fine bit of good Texan tucker that his momma would have ready for him at the house. His watch read six-thirty, and he had reckoned to be back before seven, but with the worsening weather, he began to doubt getting home at all.
A while later he was passing the McVale place, squinting to see where he was headed, he could just make out Mary-Lou McVale standing by the side of their station wagon flagging him down. He pulled over as close as he could, drew his hat down over his eyes and gathered his sheepskin coat around his body, opened the truck door and ran to Mary -Lou putting his arm around her.
‘What’s up Mrs McVale?’ he said.
The words came tumbling out, a torrent of panic.
‘The pick-up’s broke, the baby’s coming, the phone lines are down, there’s no mobile signal and Joe’s away working on the rigs. He was getting here for Christmas, but I think that ain’t possible now. The baby’s not due for another three weeks but the contractions are coming fast. I don’t see how I’m gonna make it to the hospital. Rightly I should have had my mother here but like I said, the baby’s not due for another three weeks.’
‘Well mam, I’ve delivered a fair few calves in my time, can’t see it’ll be that much different. Let’s get you inside, out of this blizzard.’
‘Won’t your mamma be worrying ’bout you?’
‘Guess she will but there’s nothing I can do ’bout that now. Anyways, she’ll likely think I’ve stayed up at the bunkhouse what with this weather and all.’
‘There’s some stew on the stove if you need a bite to eat.’
‘Why, that’s a mighty good idea, I could be here some time.’
For the next five hours Mary-Lou paced around the living room of the one storey house, moaning and groaning and Wayne comforted her between contractions. He tried to stay relaxed and not let on how nervous he felt about the imminent birth.
‘Do you think, with it being Christmas Eve an’ all, you might have a boy?’ he asked.
‘What, you mean, like a second coming?’ Mary-Lou kinda spat the words out.
‘I was just saying.’
‘I think it’s here,’ yelled Mary-Lou before dropping onto all fours and bellowing.
Wayne manoeuvred her onto the couch.
At just gone midnight, a beautiful little baby girl bawled her way into the world.
‘Oh my,’ said Wayne, ‘a new beginning. Aint that something? What are you gonna call her?’
‘Well, I don’t rightly fancy Waynette, but maybe Holly would be nice, a bit like your middle name? And it is Christmas day after all.’
Wayne stared at the little baby.
‘Imagine,’ he sighed, ‘if Jesus had been born a girl, the world might have been a whole different place.’
This story was originally created from a prompt set as homework for a writing group that I have just joined, Story Traders, in Bridport. We had to take a character or two from a Christmas Carol or Song and write a story putting them in a modern setting. I chose the Cowboy Carol, which I love and I think my kids loved it too. If you don’t know it, you can listen to a version of it here.
It’s easy to become nostalgic at this time of the year. . .it was all so different when I was a kid, but is that because I was a kid? Or were things really different? Less commercial I’m sure and our expectations were way lower. . . Whatever it’s all good fun. This poem is for my brother Tony, who was often away at Christmas because he was at a choir School and had to sing on Christmas day. Also for my sister Jean, her birthday is on the 23rd December (the day I’m uploading this). I’ve always felt sorry for her having her birthday so close to Christmas as I’m sure people used to give her a joint present. I think she should celebrate in the summertime and have an official birthday too. I’m sure I know at least one person who does that . . .
As ever, press the play button to listen or scroll on down to read. . .
When I was a kid there was much less fuss
No starting in September to beat the Christmas rush
We never got excited before the twenty-fourth
Any early preparations were of the culinary sort
Mother made a pudding and we all gave it a stir
She’d put a sixpence in it, and a spoonful of liqueur
Nowadays the sixpence is outlawed in every pud
As you might choke, or break a tooth and that would not be good
Father carved the turkey, mother drank the sherry
Brother played the piano and we sang, all warm and merry
Sister talked about her boyfriend, though I think she told me fibs
And I laughed out loud and ate so much until it hurt my ribs
Crackers and silly hats were the order of the day
You read the joke aloud before you threw it straight away
Mother kept all the bits of tinsel and crepe paper
She always said she would find a use for it, sooner or later
On Boxing day, we ventured up the M1 in our Ford
The journey took ages, as long as going abroad
We’d visit Auntie Florence in her big house with an Aga
Tea and cakes in the dining room – it was a huge palaver
The table was enormous, full-size for playing snooker
With mahogany cover, and fancy cloth – it was quite a looker
Heaving with meringues, coconut pyramids and scones
My aunt never had a problem keeping up with the Jones
Other aunts and cousins were all gathered with us there
The kids all liked each other, we didn’t really have a care
The grown ups used to send us in the garden for a run
‘Go and see the rabbits’ they’d say, ‘it will be so much fun’
The journey home to Ruislip was done well after dark
My dad driving recklessly, thinking it would be a lark
I vowed one day I’d have an Aga so that I could make and bake
Those mouth-watering meringues and other sumptuous cake
Forde Abbey with the Stalls Set Out in Front of the Beautiful House
Because of my involvement with Forde Abbey Carriage Driving Group I was this year helping with the Forde Abbey Fair. Our group which, is affiliated to the Riding for the Disabled Association, were in charge of the refreshments (tea, coffee and cakes) and all profits from this would be shared between us, and the Chard and District RDA. Both groups use the extensive and well-kept grounds for their sessions. We can drive the ponies and carriages into the arboretum and along the wide paths, around the house and driveways. We are very lucky to have this venue. We also had a stand at the fair, so that visitors were able to understand a little more about the group and how we work. We couldn’t have a pony standing in the carriage all day so we had a wooden head mounted on a table…which worked well. When necessary, we are able to take a wheelchair in the carriage. It was a brilliant day, even though at times the rain came down, but not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of both those taking part and those visiting. I loved it…
I’ve written a poem but have to admit that I have taken a few liberties, I think it’s called poetic licence, (there is no Lady M for a start!). There are more photos at the end of the piece and a fun caption competition should you care to enter. Read on…
The English Country Fair
‘How lucky we are with the weather,’ said Lady M as the showers cleared away
‘It’s so tiresome for the punters when the rain pours down all day.’
There’s something unique and nostalgic, at an English Fair in July
Displays in the main ring, are thrilling. Look – there goes the falcon so high
You can groom the Shetland pony, take a photo with him and your mum
There’s plenty to see and do while you’re there and it’s all such jolly good fun!
Visit the stalls of craft and art, check out the Tombola with prizes
Eat hot dogs, burgers, chips and a coke – have your fortune told for surprises
Look out for the people giving advice, re, funerals, insurance and glazing
You can purchase a hen, a duck or a goat…the assortment is truly amazing
In the hall of the grand country house refreshments are served from eleven
The fruit cakes, ginger and cup-cakes, must have landed here straight from heaven
Cappuccino? I’m sorry that’s not on our list. Only Decaf or normal you see…
If served in a take-away cup – sir – you could shake it yourself maybe?
The dog show is away in the corner. Poodles, Pekingese, Pointers and Pugs
Dachshunds, Dalmatians and Dobermann. Many handsome, or ugly, mugs
‘Can I have the prettiest bitch now?’ shouts a steward from inside the ring
The owners drag in their faithful friends, who are mostly, looking quite grim
One’s never too sure who enjoys it, the handlers, the judge or the pooch
I saw a disreputable entrant trying bribery with bottles of hooch!
They like to pretend all their doggies, are obedient and frightfully good
But, warnings, lectures and tick-offs, were widespread from where I stood.
Bertie, stop licking that big dog’s behind…Razo! Where did you find that bone?
Matilda! No scrapping. Naughty bad girl…Stalker! Leave that poor Schnauzer alone…
Pedro? What’s that thing in your mouth? Oh no! What on earth shall I do?
Drop it now, put it down…leave it alone…It’s Lady M’s dahling Shih Tzu!
If you want to hear me reading this poem, hop over here to my other blog
Twiglet, enjoying the attention
Fun Caption Competition Below…please enter your caption in the comments section – Winner gets a £5 WHS voucher.
(This little pug had just got his harness in a mess…no cruelty was involved!)
The Bunny Cake in Dorset before Transportation and a Few Final Additions..
The Bunny Birthday Cake
I said I’d make the birthday cake, how foolhardy am I?
‘A number one or a bunny?’ I had to give it a try.
I chose the bunny and forged ahead, feeling quite inspired…
Number one, would’ve been, a piece of cake…’scuse the pun, I’m tired.
Four sponges I made altogether, two chocolate, and two quite plain
The sizes seemed to be slightly off, though the baking tins were the same
I cut them down and shaped them, being careful as I went
And fixed them together with icing and jam, hoping that would act as cement
It sat in the fridge ‘til morning, when the next phase could begin
I needed a layer of icing, should it be think or should it be thin?
The shop bought fondant was perfect, it was quite therapeutic to play
Rolling and shaping, cutting and making – the highlight of my day
I wanted to make some carrots for the dear little bunny to nibble
But no orange colouring could be found…not even a tiny dribble
I mixed the pink and yellow, but that was awfully pale
Perhaps this bunny could be eating a healthy piece of kale
The bunny’s hind feet didn’t look right – fat and rather heavy
They could belong to a monster, or a mini sized, white-haired yeti…
An attempt to shape the lop ears, was an impossible task I found
Except for his tail, I should have put, the whole bunny, right under the ground!
In the end the cake was presentable, you could say a bit of a winner
The one-year old really loved it – and the four-year-old ate it for dinner
From the front he looked delightful, with two orange carrots to boot
From behind, he was giving two fingers up…so perhaps not quite so cute!
And on the left we have Leakers Bakery at the Market and on the Right Mike English from Fruits of the Earth. (he has a lovely wife called Sue who also runs the shop…follow the link and you can see her!)
Today I did local, high street shopping. I drove the car to Bridport and parked up in the car-park, took my shopping bags and proceeded first to the bank to get some cash. The market was in action with stalls lining West Street, East Street, South Street. The day was sunny with some ‘light showers’ so I took my umbrella which I used once and then proceeded to leave in every shop that I visited and then had to return to collect it!
I went to WH Smith to buy Writing Magazine, (looking forward to reading that this evening) I would have bought Writers’ Forum too, but there was no copy available. I popped into Boots the chemist, and I then went to the Holland and Barrett Health food shop and bought some Protein Powder for The Man who apparently needs to take it each night with milk to stave off the cramps after a long bike ride. There is, by the way, a new bike so now three in the shed. It’s a pretty fancy one and, ‘absolutely necessary’ for the summer of course, (doesn’t he have one of those already?).
Ah…a new orange helmet – to match the new orange shoes…a cycling Beau Brummel
I went into my favourite dress shop Butterfly Boho and managed not to buy anything (even though I’ve got a lot of spending to do to catch up with The Man and his bikes). The owner told me that she’d just bought a load of new stock and that it would be in the shop by mid-week so I will have to go back on Wednesday.
Butterfly Boho…my favourite clothes shop in the world!
I browsed the market stalls, stopping at Leaker’s Bakery (they have a shop in the town as well as the market stall). I bought a loaf of soda bread and I was happy to buy some Dorset apple cake but I was given three, free, wedges. Apparently the baker had forgotten to add any sugar so I (along with several others) were treated to a freebie with the proviso that we returned to give a true account of the taste…and to say whether or not it would be worth marketing? Our conclusion after ingesting the portions, was that, yes, the sugar was definitely missed, but actually the taste was not at all bad and that the apple gave some sweetness. Our suggestion would be to make it again but, perhaps add a little amount of sugar.
Soda Bread and Sugar Free Dorset Apple Cake
Animal House Pet shop for dog biscuits, food and treats. Everything a dog owner needs in here.
Animal House Pet Shop
Next stop the super duper Wholefood Shop, Fruits of the Earth where I purchased local organic asparagus, sweet potato and avocado pear. Also, the wonderful shop had argan oil, an absolute necessity for an authentic Moroccan Lamb Tagine (according to Anthony Worrall Thompson). I went into several shops and some of them hadn’t even heard of the oil and some had but reckoned you put it on your face…I got some strange looks when I said I needed it to cook with.
Fruits of the Earth shop front and the Argan Oil…for consumption not face (but I guess I could give it a try when I run out of olive oil?)
Now then, I know that I visited a few chain stores as well as the local stores but the experience of shopping in the high street is a pleasure. Charging around the supermarket and throwing my things first in the trolley and then in the boot of the car or a leisurely stroll in and out of the shops, can be compared to taking time drinking a fine wine, accompanied by delicate canapés, or, chucking cheap and nasty plonk down your throat with a packet of cheese and onion crisps.
Admittedly, you have to carry the shopping a bit further, in one or two large shopping bags but balanced properly, I didn’t have a problem. I walked further, enjoyed the view up to Colmer’s Hill from Bridport, passed the time of day with other shoppers and a general feeling of wellbeing came over me. Relaxed and happy I returned to the cottage with my goods. What’s more I added several thousand steps to my daily target!
West Street shops and Market Stalls, View to Colmer’s Hill and Snook’s Famous Hat Shop (didn’t visit here today but I often have)
Can’t let this day pass without mentioning a few inspirational women in my life.
My mother, Eileen Winifred Edith Hatch…lived to the age of 91 and spent the last few years of her life in a nursing home having had a massive stroke. During this time, she never lost her sense of humour and she never complained. I hope I can be the same if I should ever have to face a similar situation. We may not have always seen eye to eye, especially in my teenage years but on the whole, we got along pretty well and when I look back now I realise what a tough woman she was.
My Mother in 1982
My dancing teacher, Joanne Marsden Blackwell I began to learn to dance at the age of three. Ballet, modern, tap…every discipline in fact. I loved her and I loved to dance and still do, when the old hip doesn’t interfere! She is sadly no longer with us. My lasting memory is of her very long finger nails always painted bright red and she always had a cigarette on the go when not teaching. She was energetic, determined and passionate about dance. – No photo I’m afraid, all the old ones are in a box in store. What a shame.
My first mother-in-law Jackie Rickard. She introduced me to good food, good clothing, (Jaeger), dry martini and red wine. Whatsmore, she never held it against me that I divorced her son. We’re still good friends today. A woman of strong character and a wonderful Grannie.
Jackie on her 90th Birthday
Maralyn Williamson. We worked together in the Hartley Williamson School of Dance for many years and I think we made a great team, giving the children of North Devon a glimpse into the world of dancing, allowing them to appear in all the great ballets…on a small scale of course. She has taught me a great deal about classical ballet and I have taught her…let me think now…
Maralyn and I on stage presenting certificates after a show I think. Always smiling! Date unknown but probably – in 1990 something…
Of course I have been inspired by some outside influences too… The Brontes especially Emily Bronte that’s why my daughter is called Emily. Ninette De Valois was the inspiration for my name (according to my mother). Dame Judi Dench and Dame Helen Mirren I sooo wanted to be her in the National Youth Theatre. I’m bound to have left someone out, but, International Women’s Day or not… I have to cook the lunch now so must go…
I’m sure that millions of couples are celebrating their love today and that’s all fine, but, spare a thought for those who are alone either because they’ve lost the person closest to them for any number of reasons… or there isn’t anyone special right now. The Man and I don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s day because we think it’s all commercial garbage and we reaffirm our feelings all through the year, not just on February 14th. That’s how it should be, we think. I didn’t know the origins of Valentine’s Day so I ‘googled’ and found this and this and a whole lot more but it’s all a bit confused and quite unromantic to say the least. Take a look for yourselves.
Enjoy your day and maybe knock on the neighbours door if they’re alone and need a cheery greeting…but don’t buy your red roses until tomorrow….when they’ll be at least half the price!
Let’s send our love to those on their own
And blow them a kiss and a light.
To shine like a pearl and give strength
In their hearts all through today and tonight
Let’s send good feelings to those who are lost
And give them our friendship to share
Take more than a minute today, to be sure,
That those less fortunate than you, know you care
Jpeg in Dorset January 2017 – 8 years old this March (or thereabouts)
‘What’s your dog’s name?’ asks a stranger.
‘Jpeg,’ I reply.
‘What? Like the file name?’
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘How did she come to be called that?’ they ask, with a laugh and sometimes a scoff.
If I have time I tell them…
In 2009, our second summer in Italy, we were preparing a float for the Festa Delle Cove – the festival of corn (like harvest festival) read more here. We were sitting, with friends on a load of straw and picnicking outside our uninhabited and unrestored farmhouse. Along the road, and in through the open gate came three dogs, a brown one, a black and white one and a little sandy coloured puppy. They hung around for a while, ate a few titbits (yes titbits, not tidbits, that’s American apparently, although equally correct). When full, they wandered off into the afternoon sun the same way they’d arrived. A few hours later, the puppy returned alone and was determined to stay. We think the other two dogs might have been her parents and recognised a couple of suckers so sent her back in the hope she would be adopted and no longer be their responsibility.
At the end of the day, we packed up and left to go back up to town and the puppy was still there. ‘If she’s still here tomorrow I’ll think about keeping her. She is so sweet.’ I said. I should add here that I had mentioned, several times over the previous couple of years that I would NEVER have another dog.
Next morning, she was gone, and I was relieved until I saw her sitting on the doorstep of the house at the top of the road. I spoke to our Italian neighbours, ‘Oh, she’s yours? I’m so pleased, I thought she was lost.’
‘No, she’s not ours, I’m taking her to the Comune later today. She’s a stray.’
‘Oh, what will they do with her?’
The neighbour indicated his answer by making a slicing movement with his hand across his throat.
‘No! That’s awful. Please don’t do that. Give me until tomorrow morning to think about it, I didn’t want another dog, but…let me think please…I just have to speak to my other half.’
The neighbour shrugged and agreed, but only for one day, he had to get rid of her the next day.
We went to the bar that night and sat around outside drinking wine and talking, as you do and I told one of our English friends about the little lost puppy.
‘You must keep her Ninette, there’s no question about it. What does she look like?’ This lady was a confirmed dog lover as were most of the people around the table but they weren’t rushing to offer the stray puppy a home you’ll note.
‘Wait a minute, I took some photos today, I’ll go and get one,’ I said and ran home, printed off a photo and scooted back down to the café. (I can’t believe that in 2009 I was still taking all my photos with a camera not a phone…?)
‘Here she is,’ I said and presented the paper to the table and they handed it round with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.
‘Oh look,’ says The Man, ‘It’s Jpeg, see? It says so at the bottom of the page.’
I took the print and yes, that’s what it said under her lovely photo.
JPEG1000236 (see below)
We kept the puppy, obviously, and the name stuck, she suits it and we like it. I don’t like dogs with ‘people’ names although some are okay. Jpeg is perfect…well, her name is anyway! You can see from the photo her skin was in a terrible condition, she had tics, fleas and goodness know what else. She was very quiet and listless most of the time, really sweet, but she soon perked up and became a bundle of energy needing lots of running and attention! There are a few stories to tell about Jpeg, but I’ll save them for another time.
Tell us how your dog or cat got their name…
Italy September 2009 – skin looking better… Ahh, she was so cute…