Monday 21 December 2015

Happy 2016 !

Such a lot has happened since my post last Christmas. Mum has indeed settled well in her new home. She doesn't complain nor does she feel dejected by not being with one of us. She had an operation on February 14th to remove a wart on her face and she has continued to eat well, sleep well, enjoy a cuppa and a glass of sherry on high days. I do hope we can enjoy a sherry or brandy with her on Christmas Eve. Last year it was a mad dash to get her decorations from her so-silent house, put them up at Atholl House and get some colour in the room that was to be her new home.

This year I got decorations and small Christmas trees up for her on December 1st.  She doesn't want me to write her Christmas cards - I did about 60 or maybe 80 for her last year - but I can write and thank senders in the new year.

It should be a good journey on Christmas Eve - the annual great north trek - well to Tettenhall ! - except for the complication of Richard's own treatment. The discovery of very early-stage prostate cancer cells in the summer has meant Richard now has a daily visit to the hospital for radiotherapy. Even on Christmas Eve he has an appointment so we now have to work round that - plus taking the cat - and fitting carols and midnight mass in. At some stage we will need to eat. When did Christmas Eve suddenly get so busy? When illness took priority!

Last year  - on Christmas Eve - we sat in the smokers area on the decking outside at The Oddfellows - feeling like neither fish nor fowl - trying to get everything done and fitting in. But it was hard seeing mum and keeping things light-hearted. At least this year we are all more used to her situation and we have the importance of Richard's own health worries to concentrate the mind. It does help put things into perspective.I hope mum can enjoy something of Christmas and that her room still looks jolly with the decorations.

Other things have happened in 2015 - and they are non-health-related events!

We have a new, improved roof and the beginnings of a new kitchen. The garden has been tended and repaired, no little visitors are gnawing away in the kitchen this winter, and I hope to get round to sprucing up the bathrooms in that haitus between Christmas Sunday and New Year's Eve. I've enjoyed seeing the girls for exam prep and  have got back into the discipline of book group. Walking around town has been much more fun this Christmas and the pub quiz team has expanded to eight of us! Swimming has been slow but that is certainly a resolution for the New Year for me - just do it! The delight that is our great neice is an area of fun I have yet to explore properly - but photographs of little girls - especially of your own flesh and blood - are always good. Great aunt - that's me!

As 2015 ends I can reflect on the improvements in my writing - I haven't entered competitions just had professional help to work my words into something publishers will like. My brain, at least, is kept active. Physically I'm nowhere near as tired as I was this time last year and I am aiming to walk more and trying harder to eat non-fattening foods. Food-watching rather than dieting. Time will tell whether my regime is working! I do enjoy Christmas baking, though. But I have to resist the temptation for over-indulgence ...

Back to thinking about fun ...
Mum's house needs little attention from me now. I hope to get bark down on more of the flower beds and do a little cutting back just before we drive home after Christmas. That will be another task completed. When Richard's treatment ends I hope we can relax properly and go away. It is our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. That's a long marriage and, along with Christmas and my BIG birthday in March we should sink some money into just having a lot of fun. 2016 - this is our year!!

Happy Christmas one  and all 🎄

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Perfectly beastly

We've  had a perfectly beastly eighteen months; mum's stroke, finding provision for her, sorting through her belongings, rearranging her finances, doing her garden ( then repeating all that every month or so) ... Only for us to find, in the last few months, Richard has very early prostate cancer cells lurking and doing some, as yet, slight damage.

On top of that we've had the third lot of scaffolding in the last three years up at our house. Mum's house still needs some repair as there's damage from trees on the field next to her's. And we've had the disruption of electricians, carpenters and other workmen in and around. Yep perfectly beastly.

Richard even had to rush back from Cornwall after only a couple of days with his brother and our neice. All because he had to see a GP pronto. But he is feeling no side effects from his treatment  and as it's his birthday on Friday we'll have a bit-of-a-do. Must show a willing !

And the bank seems to think we are excellent savers - really - we ( we?) are good with money?! Heaven help everyone else if we are financially savvy!

But my thoughts turn elsewhere.The poor mites stranded in Lesbos in pouring rain, rottng feet, falling ill, no shelter, no fresh drinking water, no nappies for the babies, no food and no medical care. Like the refugees from the war in Sierra Leone. They have their lives - but for some - only just.

I have sent a little money today - will it get to the refugees? Will some rudimentary shelters and food and medicines reach them before they die from sleeping in wet blankets? What a terrible crisis.

 And all our government can do is talk about taking in 20,000 over five years and stripping the most vulnerable,here, of disability benefits and tax credits. I wish there was an off button whenever 'he who is in charge of the NHS' comes on our screen. I resent the energy I have to expend reaching for the remote control. Can he and his ilk not empathise? How would he cope - disabled or on £7.20 an hour - without the daily support required to lead a reasonable life? Of course he would rely on family wealth - not benefits. But we are the world's 6th richest country. Surely, as a nation, we can do better than this? Both for our own needy people and those suffering terribly beyond Syrian and African shores.

I'm usually optimistic and forward-looking.
The news around us seems somewhat bleak.
The clocks have changed and the weather is dull.

Perfectly beastly.

Tuesday 22 September 2015


Today - you never know - the scaffolders may actually arrive. They couldn't come last week as it was raining. Fair enough - but we have been waiting since February. And that is ... March ... April ... May ... August ...  seven months ago. This will only be the third time in as many years we have had scaffolding up. Quite normal. Ah it's September, time to get a scaffolding firm round again. We love paying out hundreds of pounds to have men lumbering about on the roof - so say fixing the flashing on the chimney or repairing worn stone work. Much rather do that than go away on a trip to Venice on The Orient Express or enjoy a wholesome visit to the Scillies. There again, it's a dry sunny morning. What other reason could there be for their not turning up? Let me count the ways. They can't blame the rain today, that's for certain.

As this roof job will cost us an arm and a leg - whenever anyone actually turns up to do it, that is - we are having relatively inexpensive improvements to the kitchen. New worktops, a splashback from spare tiles left over from the bathroom job in 2003, and, my tour-de-force, upcycled orange boxes and crates as shelves.

Yep it'll look just like this:

Lovely (?).

But the major decision is -  to paint or not to paint? The magnificent crates I have in my possession have had a good wash down. (They have been in mum's shed for at least thirty years.) Said crates are the genuine article but the word 'pristine' cannot be employed here. They are - though - the orange boxes of my childhood. They are my friends from when I used to pretend to have a flower shop and I used them as impromptu shelving. I was, at the age of six,  ahead of my time. A trend-setter.

Back to today. I don't want expensive shelves and cupboards. ( Don't I?) I just want new 'marble' work-surfaces in our kitchen and a new worktop in our old breakfast room - so I've got some space to roll out pastry ( which I do on a daily basis - oh yeah).  It could be a selling feature. Instead of looking from our sitting room through to a glass-fronted cabinet, packed to the brim with bone china, Wedgewood, cut glass and other expensive heirlooms, the casual observer ( purchaser?) will be able to look through to the soi-disant breakfast room and see ... old orange boxes, splintered and cracked, dusty packing cases of uneven size and wooden wine crates. All the rage.

Or not.

To top it all I am bringing to the scene an ancient set of shelves which are already in a state of partial paint-work. Not the trendy - just rubbed down, shabby chic look. More the I-was-painted-on-one-side only-forty-years-ago and said green paintwork is so pale it looks barely coloured. Shabby chic or just shabby?  Richard says he can't decide whether I am determined or just mad. But I have a vision. Watch this space. It could catch on. Dirty packing cases in a food preparation area? Mmm. Maybe I will paint them. At least paintwork can be wiped down. But will it fit in with my colour scheme? Oh decisions. Just think how much time and money I'm saving ...

Thursday 17 September 2015

Life is what happens when you're making other plans

It was fascinating to read the plans I'd made for the first few weeks into early retirement - five years ago.True to form each day was carved up into tasks and leisure interests - like a timetable - the years of teaching casting a long shadow. But, more importantly, the activities I packed in - or tried to pack in - from within a few weeks of leaving teaching - were mostly achieved - some were not - and haven't been to this day. By 2010 I'd worked 32 years full time. I suppose it wouldn't have been sensible to just stop everything and simply do nothing. But - five years on - I still haven't been on a cruise - and we're still waiting for the third lot of scaffolding to go up for yet another roof job. More surprisingly - looking back at my planned schedule five years ago - it doesn't look as if I had any intention of doing nothing! Yet perhaps that's what I should have done. Built-in leisure.

Fat chance!

Life is what happens when you're making other plans - so saith the late, great John Lennon. Lists of things to do then seem remarkably familiar to my to-do lists now. I am still filling sacks with papers, unwanted fliers and things we no longer need. It's as if this household needs perpetual sorting! Of course the things that 'happen' ie life - according to John Lennon - such as mum's stroke, Richard's recent prostate cancer scare, a leaky chimney, repairs to the garden, improvements to the kitchen - all create disruption. Moving furniture, boxing up, throwing out, sorting other people's clothes, storing irreplaceable letters from world war two and beyond, cleaning, decorating, gardening - all these events take time, space, readjustment and money.

By Christmas this year the life I want - not 'what happens when making other plans' - but those plans I have in mind include :
The final roof and chimney job EVER to this house to be finished and perfected. No more leaks!
Bathroom roof also to be in pristine condition - so all we have to do is decorate! Simple!
New worksurfaces in the kitchen.
Better use of the breakfast room so that we can use that as the main kitchen - re-siting the cooker - and more worksurfaces.
New storage and new dishwasher in the old kitchen - so it becomes a utility room.

Again - all these plans are about the house. Let's hope my plans to arrange a cruise or boat trips around the Channel Islands get made. Since I've had the Mitchum classic 'Build My Gallows High'
on pause since breakfast-o'clock today - and it's now after midday - what are the chances of achieving that holiday? When other people retire they go round the world.

I seem to fill bin bags. Enough!
Got to re-prioritise. Time for leisure. Time to retire!

2016 is not going to be 'life is what happens when you're making other plans' ... I've got three and half months to get back on track. Who said retirement was boring? What time have I had for boredom??

Right - now to sit back and watch 'Build My Gallows High' before the pause facility blows up!!
New year's resolution? I'm either nine months late or three and half month's early!

Thursday 27 August 2015

Dreadful !

I am not known for getting hysterical or even moaning that much. But the last few days feel as if the gods are against us. Not known as an unhealthy family we seem to be defying our heritage and falling ill  with great speed. Mum is in her nursing home, my husband is undergoing tests and treatment for prostate issues, my aunt is also having a biopsy, another aunt has an irregular heartbeat and I had to go for a mammogram. At least my mammogram was clear - unlike three years ago when the slide showed a change. It was an anomally thank goodness.

It has been increasingly difficult this week to contact family about ailments, biopsies, treatment and plans for my mother's house. We have had no landline and no broadband for almost two weeks. Some of our neighbours have been without for five weeks.  Very difficult and frustrating.

For the first time in years I have taught almost every day throughout August and I have had sleepless nights! Not through the teaching but builders' estimates ... aargh!!!
Sooo expensive ... Trying to get our family builder down from the midlands to do the job but everything seems so fraught. That's given me the sleepless nights. So expensive and yet the chimney leaks so we'll never sell this house if it goes unrepaired. We have been got over a barrell.
This is only the sixth time we've had it repaired ... Am I tired ? You bet!

On top of that it's very expensive contacting everyone by iphone. Broadband is pathetically slow here - even with 3G - I can barely plan lessons - can't download tasks - can't receive literary work for critiquing - and so it goes.

A plumber did come today ( oh aren't we blessed ?) but he couldn't fix the ensuite lavatory even though I'd sent him photographs showing the innards of the system. So how long until that's working?
It's been out of proper use for weeks.

On top of that, having tried to clear mum's shed last week,  I'm still in pain - after more than ten days - because it's buggered my back.

About the only good thing this week is that the bank said I was a really good credit risk - I score 2 on a scale of 1-10. When, or if, we decide to have the roof done ( we've only waited since February) we might manage to get a loan or similar to pay for  this expensive job!

Today Nelson is five. Happy birthday Nelson. His first task today was to deposit the stomach from some poor creature he'd caught and eaten inside the house. Nice to see that on the carpet by the breakfast table.

On Sunday I have to pack the car to do a car boot sale on Monday. Please God! Let my back cope with it all - and please don't let it rain! I may run out of painkillers. We need a good week next week!
And I'd like to bet this blog won't post ...

Saturday 25 July 2015

My love affair is over

And so my three year love affair is over. That slim purple-jacketed companion, by my side since September 2012, has betrayed me. I went to bed with it, woke up with it, dozed to the 'Today' programme as early as six-thirty a.m. on it - while morning sunlight tried to bring me fully to consciousness.

Yes the ipad has let me down. I am in a period of mourning.

 I see, from user groups - whose members are also suffering from an equally great sense of loss - Apple don't offer much support when the ipad crashes. Non-techie types like me have to go to 'settings' and, it appears, switch things off to stop my old ipad 2 crashing even further.

Now I have to wait forty seconds to get back to a page I was using before shut down. I seem to be clicking the RESTORE button at least three times before the iplayer, the wiki page or Sainsburys online shopping site settles down again for my uninterrupted enjoyment. Forty seconds - that's a life time.

Tonight - wearied by said ipad - I played an old video of 'Hannah and her Sisters' on my mother's ancient TV - which we have manoevered into our bedroom, along with boxes of videod programmes recorded in the 90s or earlier. Another lifetime away.

How standards have changed! Why couldn't I get exactly the right hue for the fleshtones of Michael Caine, Mia Farrow et al? Where was the control for that? Why do I have to put up with dark images because I can't adjust the picture sufficiently? And then the story takes over and I stop trying for the perfect picture - content to enjoy the film.

So there's the moral. The more we try for technological excellence the less content we become. The more we feel let down when hand-held gadgets are less reliable than we believed them to be the more irritable we are.

Until, that is, a simple act like picking up an item as old-fashioned as a book makes us realise that waiting forty seconds is no trial. The love affair - giving immediate gratification and instant interaction - has merely turned into a new relationship - requiring patience and understanding. Perhaps the ipad is evolving as I write. Maybe it's doing clever things, things I don't have the wit to understand while I'm messing about with this feature - my blog.

The iplayer on my ipad seems to function better in its current version. Perhaps I'm paying for that improvement by having to press the RESTORE button just to read wiki. Who knows? Apple? Techies? ipadders? Everyone other than I?

In the end it hardly matters. I have an iphone and two lap tops. At least one of these gadgets will give me what I need - or want - when I need or want it.

I first went onto a website around 1995. In 1985 I was using a BBC Basic computer which kept breaking down. That was at work and we had to send for the whole IT team to fix it - and that took far longer than forty seconds. So I've been patient with technology before. Will have to remember what being patient feels like.

Or maybe just get a life.

Thursday 18 June 2015

Hippo in the High Street

I like to read BBC News on iplayer. By the time I get to watch Sky News or BBC News 24 or Al Jazeerah the headlines are already old. The story of hippos in the streets of flood-hit Georgia seemed to take a time to get aired on broadcast news. The sight of a hippo, disorientated, enjoying a fearful new-found freedom, hungry, and a survivor of his flood-damaged enclosure, seemed too memorable an image to be ignored. It did feel like an age before the flood in Georgia made it to big-time news. I believe it was when a white tiger attacked and killed a man, ripping out his throat, that the news was broadcast on TV. The tiger was shot.

More shocking is the notion that no-one knows how many beasts are dead, drowned from the flood, escaped, trapped or merely wandering - possibly injured. Animals are fierce when they are hungry and wounded. I do hope people who have survived the flood can stay safe from wolves, bears, lions and tigers who may be in their back garden while they scrabble about, trying to deal with a flooded house. The volunteers and rescuers are brave folks but everyone is unsafe until the total number of zoo animals on the loose is known and all can be accounted for.

A double-whammy to have hit the Georgian people. I find, more and more, we are lucky to live where we do. Yes the river in Bath could flood - as does our favourite watering hole - The Bathampton Mill, but I don't think we are at risk of being attacked - and likely killed - by a wild, hungry escapee from a zoo.

Let's hope the animals are rounded up very soon. I wonder what might happen if any of the female wolves, lions or tigers were pregnant when the floods hit their cages.That could lead to a whole new problem if a litter is born -  in the next days or weeks - within the city boundary. Wild big cats or wolves with their babies would create a constant source of fear and anxiety for citizens trying to come to terms with their damaged homes and shopping areas, highways and office blocks.

The image of a hippo in the High Street would be surreal if it weren't so ominous.

Monday 18 May 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd

When farmer Oak smiled ... So begins chapter one - that is if you're reading Thomas Hardy - but not if you are watching this year's film release starring Carey Mulligan. The actors do well against beautiful location shots. But with such lines as 'Whenever I look up there you will be and whenever you look up there I will be' missing totally from the script I wondered whether anyone had tried reading the text. 'The knot of knots there's  no untying' was removed from the script too. The excellent scene where Troy says to Fanny after she's gone to the wrong church for their wedding 'More fool you for so fooling me'  was, yes, you guessed it, absent too.

Troy is badly cast - imho - the scene where he shows Bathsheba his sword fighting skills doesn't excite. Fanny has no dog to lean on as she struggles to the workhouse. The reason poor Fanny's coffin  
rests for a night at Bathsheba's farm is because the driver of the 'hearse' is too late for the church. While she is cold in her coffin he has been carousing in the pub. The pitiful scene where Troy tries to plant bulbs on her grave, too late a task, and they are washed away by water from the spout in the mouth of the ugly gargoyle above her resting place, is completely missing. Bathsheba spends a night sleeping out of doors - outcast. Shouldn't this have been included? Another key scene which has vanished is where Troy is disguised as a player in a travelling circus and sees Bathsheba and farmer Boldwood in the audience - as a couple - she's been told he's drowned.

Why bother making a film of a book and make it into a typical Saturday evenng TV drama ? With such rich phrases from  Hardy still available to us - why not use these profound words?

Thursday 30 April 2015

Tragedy in Kathmandu

When we were first married Richard and I enjoyed a trip to India and Nepal - it lasted around three weeks. One of my memories from then is seeing wild monkeys jumping over the monkey temple. They were as numerous as squirrels chasing up trees in the woods near our house. Kathmandu was the place where I saw groups of mother-less children living rough, supporting each other, sleeping inside sacks - night after night. Such images don't leave you.
Now it is a place of great tragedy as the death toll from the earthquake rises ever more sharply with each bulletin. I will, of course, make a donation through the Red Cross to help in some small way.

For those of you who know my work I have long had an interest in Sierra Leone. My short story 'Austerity' - about life near Freetown after civil war - hints at medical poverty but in my revisions I will actively refer to Ebola.
On Saturday our house is an Open Studio - part of the Larkhall Festival and one of four art trails around Bath. Richard is donating 20% of proceeds from sales of his framed works - of the people of Sierra Leone - to the Ebola Fund. There is still work to be done in SL. Many families have been displaced and their monies lost through failed businesses, following the horrendous epidemic.  The people of Sierra Leone still need support as they rebuild their lives. If you can please come along and support our efforts ( We are open Saturday, Sunday and Monday) & thanks for reading my blog.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Selective Reading

When is a bookgroup a hindrance rather than a help? When you have sooo much to read more titles simply become overwhelming rather than enlightening! Having just read the mighty Anna Karenina I found it, sacrilege I know, a distraction rather than a help. I don't think I have the tolerance, for the moment at least, for 19th century Russian aristocratic society with its curious mix of wealth and restrictions. Some beautiful phrases and philosophies, of course, but I feel I want to read shorter works. Eight hundred pages - as for Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries - is toooo much. It's simply because I want to work at my own novel - so I need the time and headspace now.
I feel I'm ready to read Polly Samson. As she's published a collection of short stories and written a novel incorporating a family member I feel she might be one for me to watch. So I may miss a couple of bookgroup titles and concentrate on writerly-supportive reading - thereby helping develop my own writing style.

It's a year since mum's stroke and of course one has to be cognisant of the fact that the upheaval has taken its toll; on us - the rest of her family; physically - simply moving mum and her belongings is a massive task; sorting out her house ( our childhood home) and the emotional impact of it all.
It could explain why my back has been especially painful for a number of weeks and why I'm so tired. On a happier note I may be able to use the skills of a professional author in a couple of months time. It would be wonderful to get a rigorous read through of 'Coming of Age' with a critique from a published writer. It's what I need now!

So back to the writing. Selective reading may have to be my priority ...

Sunday 15 March 2015

Mothering Sunday and my birthday

As mum reaches her ninetieth birthday I'm getting closer to another milestone; I'm nearer sixty than fifty now. As well as the solar eclipse on Friday two other worlds have collided this weekend - it was my birthday yesterday - the first one where mum was not able to send me a birthday card nor ring me - and today is Mothers' Day - the first time I won't be able to pick up the phone to speak to her. Hey ho. The times they are a changing. I'm very lucky to have had an attentive and loving mum - many don't - and so lucky to have a mum strong enough to survive a massive stroke - again many don't.

Mum hates the phrase Mothers' Day and insists it's Mothering Sunday. She often went to the Mothering Sunday church service at St. Leonard's and always said it was a special Sunday set aside for girls in service - maids, housekeepers and the like - to go home to see their mothers.

Still next Thursday or Friday we'll go and see her. It'll be interesting to see if she can remember it was my birthday and Mothering Sunday. She'll likely remember some of it.

The surgeon at New Cross hospital have done a good job on her face and she is now discharged. I will be glad to see it healed - last time I saw mum her face was full of black stitches - but in no pain. What a year this has been! The stroke was last April and we are just coming to terms with hospital visits, travelling with her in ambulances, seeing consultants and carers, nurses and nursing home matrons.

Mum has, thankfully, recovered from her bedsore, is eating well and enjoys a sherry. She still likes her cups of tea, isn't in much pain and likes to talk. It would be good to see her sitting out but she hates the hoist - preferring the comfort of her bed. Would I be any different aged ninety, following a stroke?
On Thursday we went for a birthday meal, a scrumptious fish platter. Yesterday - a dull, cool March day, we went for a bucks fizz and back for our party in the evening. Three of us, from two writers' groups, read fiction to our guests. My reading was from chapter one of my novel 'Coming of Age'. How timely that I interviewed mum long before her stroke so her recall about my great aunt, Eliza Augusta, the main protagonist, was very very sharp. Mina read her short story, The Barn and Sue read a powerful monologue as if written by a thug in a comprehensive school, with a frightening ending.
Each piece had its strengths - and were refreshingly different. It's all good prac for reading in front of an audience.

It's usually a sign that it's been a hard winter when daffodils are still closed by mid-March - my birthday. In fact it has been a sunny winter, but the last two weeks have been cool so the buds have stayed tightly closed. After a mild winter the daffodils can be over by March 14th, with yellow petals withered and turning brown - this year the plants are up and just ready to burst open. After a very cold winter, sometimes with snow and ice on the ground for weeks, daffodils might still be struggling to emerge from the still-cold soil. Maybe only an inch or two showing above the ground. My birthday is a good marker in more ways than one.  

Now that I have some of mum's belongings in our house, safe from builders' claw hammers!, I was able to post an ensemble picture of mum and her favourite pieces of china for Mothers' Day aka Mothering Sunday. The photograph of her as baby - one she never liked - and the ornate Italian table centre appear in my novel 'Coming of Age '. The photograph is ninety years old and the table centre belonged to Eliza Augusta. All are important details in my novel. Important artefacts in my family history. Things aren't as important as people but they are reminders of lives led, the people who led them, and our lives as children. Happy birthday to me for yesterday and happy Mothers' Day. I hope mum can enjoy something of it!

Thursday 22 January 2015

A lot to be grateful for

So glad people are telling me they read my blog. I'm equally pleased we are planning another evening of readings - from our own writing - two writers' groups sharing their work. It gives us a chance to get used to performing in front of others. Modern writing and new writers performing quietly, away from the small screen, amidst current re-enactments on television : old events and seasoned campaigners. Cromwell in Wolf Hall to Churchill to Eichmann.

We live in interesting times and I feel there is much to be grateful for. Our country is at peace, we have no burning at the stake nor public executions. No Wolf Hall.  My friends and I live comfortably, with freedom of choice, in warm houses and with plenty to eat, while the temperatures drop outside. Perhaps we owe our freedom and comfort partly to the leadership of a man who fought for Great Britain many years before I was born. Sir Winston Churchill.

It is fifty years since I saw his waterborne coffin being carried on the Thames - through the medium of television. I was a child and knew who Churchill was, of course, but it is the commentary - the phrase ' his final journey' which has remained with me. What did these words really mean? Had he planned his final journey, had he travelled this way before?

It was a spectacle for television - all the more meaningful,  I would say, its being filmed in monochrome against a grey winter sky. A sombre spectacle.

Another sombre spectacle is the filming of the Eichmann trial. Another 'leader' or at least a deputy leader who commanded so much power millions died.

Now to current events. Prince Andrew - who was born slightly after me - is defending himself  by speaking to people of his innocence in front of millions, again through the medium of television. Leon Brittan has died and one newspaper says he will be hunted beyond the grave. Both Prince Andrew and Leon Brittan have denied any wrong-doing. I, for one, am glad I am not in the public eye. I like my privacy and I cannot believe I would enjoy TV cameras being pointed at me. Then I see Emma Healey for the Costa First Novel Award being interviewed by Nick Higham. She's written a book about Alzheimers. She's known now. Her life will never be the same again.

The TV is prominent in our lives and it's so easy to switch between vastly different worlds. We move from those who fought against evil to those who perpetrated it within seconds, using the remote control, (or the press of a virtual button on the ipad). If we don't like what we see we can forget it. Unless of course we are the one at the centre of the storm. The one with the cameras on us. Which brings me back to performance evenings.

Some of us are naturals at reading out our work to an audience. It can be quite scary even to someone like me who taught schoolchildren for 32 years - an 'unappreciative audience' ? But reading aloud to others is nothing truly frightening in the scheme of things - we have a lot to be grateful for in an uncertain world. We are not fighting for our lives or scraping money together to live in an overcrowded flat. Today, hours before I watched extracts about Churchill and Eichmann,  I read about a father and son who died in Syria, not from bullets but from the sheer cold.

It's good to reflect that we have a lot to be grateful for.