Reasons why Fran is now wary when opening the door to the pantry

So, this morning, our new vacuum cleaner arrived. My husband and I had decided that we'd been hauling a Henry up and down our precipitous Victorian wooden stairs for long enough and, until we've both made our wills, perhaps we should find another solution.

'Oh, I'm so sorry. How did she die?'

'She tripped over the hose of the vacuum cleaner and, what's more, she hadn't even done the downstairs rooms.'

I'm not going to lie, it doesn't have the romanticism of 'She died of heartbreak' or 'She died rescuing someone from drowning' or even 'She fell into a crevasse while climbing in the Alps.'

Anyway, we opened the box excitedly. 'I'll find the instructions,' I said.

This picture shows the front page of the instruction booklet.

It says, 'Please read carefully before using this product.' The only problem is, the rest of the booklet looks like this. (I think you know what's coming, don't you?)


Reasons why Fran prefers winter

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far. My husband heard some advice on Radio 4 that to keep the house cool one should shut all doors, close all windows, and pull all curtains. So we had two choices. Sit outside in the garden in heat so oppressive we could feel it wrapping its sweaty arms around us and squeezing us tight, or sit inside in the dark.

Most of the day, we sat indoors. It's officially true, then. You can escape a heatwave by staying in and feeling trapped and lonely.

Neither of us is good with heat. For our holidays, we look for anywhere north of the Midlands where rain and perhaps mist are likely. One of our best holidays was in the Lake District a few years ago. It was cool and drizzly and we saved a lot of money not buying sun cream, ice cream or insect bite cream. Also, my husband could persuade me up gentle slopes, which he can't if I'm convinced I will die from sunstroke halfway up. 

I couldn't do what my sister is currently doing, therefore…

Evidence that even at her age Fran is still experiencing rites of passage

I guess you could call it a rite of passage, the first time you squeeze the toothpaste onto the plastic back of the toothbrush and not onto the brush at the front.

It's a very different teeth-cleaning experience - not unpleasant, but odd nonetheless - so I'm not recommending it and it'll teach me to wear my glasses in the bathroom.

Is 57 still middle-aged, or am I sliding inexorably towards the autumn of my life? How long until I experience the rite of passage that is washing my hair with body butter or trying to apply shampoo to the hard skin on my feet?

A more significant rite of passage recently was my trip to Northern Spain with my daughter and her partner. It's over 20 years since I've flown so I was nervous and, after listening to various horror stories about imploding ears, had 49 fruit-flavoured boiled sweets in my hand luggage. As the plane lifted off the runway at Gatwick, I sucked the sweet as though trying to extract its soul, my cheeks falling in like …

Reasons why Fran always carries a rolled-up newspaper

I watched a wasp die on the bus yesterday morning.

I know, as an opener, it's not the same as 'Hey, did you see the latest episode of Game of Thrones? but it's all I have to offer.

I'm nervous about wasps. I'm sure, if they could talk, they'd say they were nervous about me too. But all I have in my armoury is a rolled-up newspaper and a bad aim. They have a stinger. And, close up, they're pretty scary.

A wasp in a field, I can cope with. A wasp in the garden, just about.

But a wasp on the bus is a cross wasp. (Move along, Dr Seuss.)

I saw it progressing along a window two seats in front of me. It was crawling my way.

I don't mean, crawling in the way I'd crawl, as in 'Oof, oof, my knees, and how will I ever get up from this position?'  I mean, crawling towards me.

I expected a confrontation. I picked up the copy of the Metro I'd collected when I got on the bus and began rolling.

It crawled nearer. But it was slow.

Aha. A trick! A clever …

Reasons why Fran was glad to wake up this morning

It's not yet 7am and I'm sitting in bed looking out of the window at the graveyard behind our house.

That makes it sound as though it's our personal graveyard. You know, like people say, 'the garage behind our house' or 'the shed at the bottom of the garden'.

'Oh, yes, our personal graveyard. Yes, yes, we own it all - the stones, the coffins, the skeletons, the wilted flowers, the worms. One day we too will lie there. We are like wealthy aristocrats who have a sepulchre set aside for when they pass away, only ours is conveniently just behind our house. Our grieving relatives will be able to lob us over the garden wall when the time comes.'

No, it's nothing like that. It's an old Victorian graveyard our house happens to overlook. If you try to ignore the graves, you could imagine it as a lovely park with lawns and trees, but that's a hard ask, like saying, 'Here, have this chocolate cake covered in flies, but just ignore the flies.…

Evidence that Fran's bus - and joy - have been tooken away

They've taken away my bus.

Or, as my 5 year old granddaughter might put it, 'They've tooken away my bus.'

I'll get back to the bus in a moment.

You've got to love junior grammar. It's not until they're about 7 or 8 that they've fully grasped irregular verb endings. So, she's still saying things like 'I talkid to the man' or 'I rided my bike and wented to the park where I eated my icecream.'

Who can blame her? It's an unjust world of irregular verbs. You emerge from the womb. You learn the verb 'to eat'. You hear someone say, 'I wouldn't have minded. You think, 'Hey, so, mind becomes minded in the past tense. This means that, on the end of verbs, if you want the past tense, you use -ed. I'm going to have a go. Hey, Ma. I eated my dinner.'

'No, dear. It's not eated. It's ate.'


Okay, try this one, Ma. I heard someone say they walked in the garden. So, sometimes the 'ed…

Evidence that horses, bandstands and green folders all have a connection

This week, I have some pictures for you from my phone's camera. I am going to try to find links between them. 

Okay, so let's start this photo-blog with this beauty. I don't know his name. I'll call him Horse because I'm original like that.

I visit Horse regularly. He lives in a field 15 minutes' walk away from my house. When I say 15 minutes' walk, I'm the one who walks to Horse, not Horse to me. I plug in my earphones, select a radio programme, and say to my husband, 'Going up the road to see Horse.'

Horse listens to any problems you have and gives wise, merciful looks. He is cheaper than any other therapist. He does not judge. And you can trust him not to gossip. All he asks in payment is that you stroke him and feed him clumps of grass, which I call a bargain.

This is the bandstand in Leamington Spa's Pump Room Gardens, near my home, and it's currently being restored to its original loveliness by a company specialising in this kind …