Sunday, 14 January 2018

Reasons why Fran may soon be forced to live outside

Let's have a conversation about clutter because, please, tell me, it's not just our house ....

Surely other people, too, stand back when opening cupboards in case of avalanches.

Surely others open drawers then ram them shut again, pretending they never looked.

Surely others smugly tell friends they have planned a whole day of de-cluttering only to open one wardrobe door, lose heart within 3.5 seconds at the sight of enough unwanted cloth to dress the whole wide world, shut the door again, and make a Victoria Sponge instead.

How does it happen? Only two of us live in this house. How can two middle-aged people, with no children living at home, still be in danger of being edged out of the living room, down the hall and out of the front door into the street by a invading force of inanimate objects?

Let's talk about linen. I could talk about crockery, or stationery, or unused window blinds, or spare lamps, or books, or books, or books, but I'll talk about linen.

We have bed linen we use all the time - our day-to-day sheets, duvet covers and pillows/pillow cases. Next, we have linen we use some of the time, for the spare beds when guests come. However, we also have linen we use None Of The Time. Here is a list of some of our unused linen items.

a) Children's blankets we've kept for sentimental reasons. I guess if we ever get a rescue dog, which we'd love to, these tiny blankets would be useful for its bed. But any dog worthy of the name dog would probably be embarrassed by the pink/baby blue lacy edges and the bunny patterns. 'Woof, woof, what the heck do you call this? Did the rescue centre SAY I was a cross-dresser?'

b) Some old pillows we've kept even though we've bought new ones. Should one of us need to sleep sitting up - for instance, should we develop lung conditions - extra pillows could prove useful. But these old ones were bought in the 1980s and are so thin they would offer as much support as a chapatti or an OS map (unfolded).

c) Old pillowcases. The only possible reason for keeping these is in case I want to go to a fancy dress party dressed as a domino. I refer you to this recent post if you didn't see it

d) A piece of vibrant yellow-green-orange-blue African cotton a Ghanaian friend gave me in 2001. It's enough for three tablecloths, or a duvet cover, or 23 pillowcases, but it's so bright and colourful that it would stand out as almost rude in our house which is furnished and decorated in beige and muted reds and browns. People would think we'd had Jackson Pollack round. Its only current use is that it's so bright, when we open the airing cupboard where the linen is kept, we don't need to put a light on.

e) And then there are towels: mahoosive round-the-body-twice towels, towels smaller than that, towels smaller than that, towels smaller than that, towels smaller than that, towels smaller than that, and facecloths. Some of these towels are so ancient, you can peer through the thinnest parts of them as you can through ring doughnuts . Also, however much Lenor you glug into the washing machine, our oldest towels still emerge as rough as pork scratchings. As I say to Paul, 'If I wanted to exfoliate myself past my epidermis and down to the dermis, I would fetch a cheese grater.'

Rover was making it clear that he wasn't happy about the Peppa Pig blanket

What is your house stuffed with? Or are you a ruthless, heartless de-clutterer who threw the baby blankets out before the child had even said its first word?

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Evidence that some fictional characters should have made different New Year Resolutions

I last posted these 'Characters' New Year Resolutions' a few years ago and they're always popular, so here they are again, new and improved, plus some extras.

Happy New Year!

Gulliver: Don't lie down in other people's countries.

Red Riding Hood: When taking cakes to grandparents, go via the main road.

Pilgrim: Steer clear of Sloughs.

Dr Frankenstein: Use a wider variety of materials for future craft projects.

Dr Jekyll: Learn to live with yourselvesself

The Three Little Pigs: Begin with the bricks.

Holden Caulfield: Revise.

Jay Gatsby: Never let a woman drive.

Lennie Small: Let go of the soft things earlier.

Mr Bennet: Don't bother with sarcasm that no one gets.

Dorian Gray: Keep the portraits in the kitchen.

Juliet: Marry for money.

Three Men in a Boat: Leave dogs at home.

Magwitch: Skype from Australia

Jane Eyre: Ask for a full tour of the house on the first day.

Piggy: Always carry matches.

Macbeth: Never trust women who don't speak in iambic pentameter.

The Emperor: Check in a mirror before leaving for processions.

Mummy Bear: Give them toast.

Any other suggestions?....

Friday, 22 December 2017

Evidence that there is always something to learn even while you are Christmas shopping

1. There is always another supermarket queue shorter than yours. However, should you join it, you'll find the person at the front of it has lost her bank card, has a box of broken eggs that need replacing, and has just remembered that she left a small child in the crisps aisle.

2. Everyone beetling up and down the main street is radiant with Christmas cheer and goodwill, but only on the inside, deep down. On the outside, they look as though they'd like to batter Santa senseless with a box set of Game of Thrones.

3. It is only once you have hurled yourself through the crowds into Baby Gap, up a long flight of stairs with all your shopping, navigated your way through hoodies, pyjamas, teeshirts and pinafore dresses, and asked three people where you'll find the socks, that you will remember you have no idea what size your grandchildren's feet are.

4. It is best not to be honest, so when the lady at the bank says, 'You do realise you could have paid in all these cheques via a machine,' you should say, 'Thank you - I will do that next time' and not 'To be frank, I prefer talking to real people with hair and eyes.' No one appreciates this kind of honesty any more and you can't blame the bank staff for glancing anxiously at you, hoping you've taken your medication or wondering who let you out of the house.

5. If you are only five feet two inches, buy the type of Christmas wrapping paper that comes folded up in a bag. If you buy it in rolls, especially if you've fallen for the 3 for 2 trick and have bought 9, you will be dragging these behind you down the high street like Marley's Ghost drags his chains, or as though you are a lost lumberjack.

I wish all my followers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you from the ...

.... of my heart for following, reading and entertaining me with your funny comments. It is all much appreciated.

Keep reading in 2018! 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Reasons why it's no good inviting Fran to a fancy dress party

When I was about nine, I was invited to a fancy dress party. My mother, with little time or inclination for making or buying costumes, sent me as a domino.


1. Take one naive, unsuspecting small child.
2. Take one old grey-white cotton pillowcase.
3. Take one indelible black pen.
4. Draw a horizontal line half-way down the pillowcase on both sides.
5. Draw large dots in the blank squares.
6. Undo half of the seam at the top of the pillowcase so that it can fit over the child's head.
7. Encase the child in the pillowcase.
8. Say 'Darling, you're bound to impress everyone. Have a super time.'
9. Send child to party.
10. Enjoy a quiet afternoon alone while your child learns that other parents make angel costumes or buy Superman outfits for their children and that sometimes life is the pits.

A quick Google search tells me that, should I wish to repeat the experience forty-six years later, I could.

I won't.

The only other time I've agreed to fancy dress is when I was thirty and our church had a 1970s disco. I dressed as a punk rocker, gelling my hair into spikes, caking my face in alarming Gothic make-up and attaching mahoosive safety pins to a black shirt and trousers.

There is a photo somewhere in the house. It can stay 'somewhere in the house' and will need to be destroyed before I die. I cannot think what possessed me to dress up in such a way and be seen in public. Think a plump version of 'Siouxsie' from 'Siouxsie and the Banshees' crossed with the Bride of Frankenstein crossed with a porcupine crossed with a panda who's been badly beaten up.

I detest dressing to order, particularly if I think I will look ridiculous. At a school sports day five years ago, all the teachers were asked to dress in the house colours. My house colour was bright yellow. Yellow is the one colour I cannot wear. If I wear yellow, my complexion changes hue and I look as though I have liver disease and need to be rushed to hospital.

I got round it by making myself a giant badge which I pinned onto a black teeshirt. It said, 'I am not a badge. I am a yellow teeshirt.'

Hats? I can't wear those either. They feel unnatural, like fancy dress even when they're not. I try hats on in shops and look in the mirror to find that I look as if my head has been visited by an alien craft made of felt.

My domino experience has a lot to answer for.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Reasons why Fran's future career as a supermodel may suffer further delay

My husband bought me one of these for my birthday last April.

Beware. This is the most dangerous piece of kitchen equipment known to man. 

I've written a poem about it.


I fear I am addicted to a substance -
may need a doctor for some quick advice.
This substance is so tempting, I can't help it.
One portion of it just will not suffice.
The minute I indulge I sense euphoria.
I want to tell the world, to raise my voice,
and yell, 'I so love cheese and onion toasties.
I admit it. Toasties are my drug of choice.'

The instant I think, 'Cheese and onion toastie!'
My mind begins to tease and play some tricks.
Whatever I am doing, I must drop it
and get into that kitchen for a fix.
I'm grating cheese so fast, I grate my fingers
but nothing stops me once I'm in the zone.
I'm chopping onion like there's no tomorrow
ignoring email, Twitter, Facebook, phone.

I'm lathering the butter on the slices
as though I'm trying to suffocate the bread.
My heart is going boom-boom-boom, excited,
anticipating toastie bliss ahead.
I'm chanting, 'Toastie! Toastie! You're my saviour.
One bite, one bite, and all my woes are gone.'

Then, just as I near faint with joy, I realise
I haven't turned the toastie maker on.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Reasons why Fran is grateful for kind people who work in care homes

My grandmother is 95. I visit her once a week in a care home. This week, I came away from the visit grateful for some lovely carers who were working with the elderly there in a compassionate and sensitive way. It's not always the case.

Before she went to the care home, I used to visit her in her own flat, where she lived alone. Week by week, it was clear that she was deteriorating and would need more care eventually. I wrote this short poem about her at that time in response to the challenge to write a 'list' poem. Any of you who have elderly relatives might find it resonates. And if you like writing poems, trying a list poem is worth doing.

Crossed out

Stains on your blue cardigan.  Hymnal tones
of horseracing on the TV.  One Hermesetas,
lost.  Your leg bandaged like a Pharoah's.
A teacup, brown around the rim.  Crumbs.
Discarded news.  Blank crossword puzzles.
Tablets.  Monday.  Tuesday.  Thursday?
Denials of naps.  A half-eaten currant bun
wrapped in a tissue.  Talon toenails.

Your phone book, so many names crossed

Here I am, visiting her in the care home with my two grandchildren: her great-great grandchildren! 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Reasons why Fran turns a blind eye to escapee Hoovers

I was out for a walk this morning and saw a man bring a vacuum cleaner out of his house and park it at the top of his drive. I have no idea why. Perhaps he was taking it to be mended and was about to load it into his car.

Anyway, he parked it, and went back into the house.

As I walked past the house, the vacuum cleaner, which was on tiny wheels, began to take on a life of its own, as though it had waited all this time for freedom, and made its way down the path which had a slight incline. It started slowly and picked up speed. I swear it took a sneaky look behind it, like a wayward child would.

What would you have done if you'd seen this happening?

I stood there watching it.

It was halfway down the path when the man came back out, saw what was happening, raced down and grabbed it before it got on a bus to Stratford and had a day out or left the country for a new life in Bolivia.

The man looked my way, but pretended not to see me. He looked sheepish, as though it were a matter for shame, having lost control of a household implement.

Likewise, I pretended I had seen nothing, and walked on, eyes straight ahead.

This 'pretending not to see' ... is it a British thing? If I were an Italian or an Iraqi, would I have bolted across to rescue the vacuum cleaner? Or yelled 'Hey! Your vacuum cleaner is running away!' so that the man would run back out to see what was happening?

Perhaps my reaction was based on political correctness. You know how it's not the done thing now to intervene if you see someone else's child misbehaving? Gone are the days when you could clip someone else's child around the ear for scrumping your apples, or drag him back to his mum's house when you'd caught him riding his bike in the middle of the road. You'd find yourself in court.

So, if it had been the man's teenager outside the house, dropping litter on the drive or screeching swearwords at a neighbour, would I have said anything? We don't like to embarrass a fellow human now. We avoid the suggestion that they're the worst example of parenting since Lady Macbeth who would have, had she broken a promise like Macbeth did, plucked her nipple from her baby's boneless gums and dashed its brains out.

Don't hold back, Lady M. Say how you feel.

Henry had been planning this for years. All he needed was that open door and a driveway with a slope. 

Other things I pretend not to see.

Basil in between people's teeth.

Dresses accidentally tucked into knickers.

Lunch leftovers on someone's jumper.

I would definitely pretend not to see these things.

Basil tucked into people's knickers.

Knickers in between people's teeth.

Lunch leftovers in people's knickers.

Knickers tucked into Basil's lunch.

Leftover teeth in someone's knickers.

If you'd seen the escapee Hoover, what would you have done?