Reasons Why Fran's bookshelf is suddenly stacked with nature books and poetry

Before you click 'Join' for an online conference call or meeting, in which you show off your bookshelf behind you, which 10 books should you remove? 

Haemorrhoid Hell: When You're Not Sitting Comfortably Sex Without Socks On: The Ultimate Guide to Middle-aged Intimacy Joyce's Ulysses: The Facts You Need to Fool your Friends Rock-Solid Excuses for Parties, Weddings and Baby ShowersHow to Re-Gift Christmas presents by the 27thWarts and All: Advice about Ugly Growths in Awkward PlacesUnfollowing and Muting: Social Media Without FearKitchen Trickery: Making Waitrose-made-it Look Like You-made-itWhen Will They Bloody Leave? - 10 tips for getting dinner guests out of your halland, of course, finally -The Pandemic Bookshelf - Because They Will Be Looking   

Reasons why Fran will avoid woods for the foreseeable future

I arrived back on Friday from a week in Wales with my son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.(Just then, I typed 'groundchildren' instead of 'grandchildren', and soon you will see how ironic that is.)If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know not to expect post-holiday descriptions of lush landscapes, snippets of pastoral poetry or anecdotes about my daredevil surfing exploits. Oh, okay, then. Here's a waterfall. But that's all you're getting of anything postcardy.   

The weather forecast, as we left the Midlands to drive to Wales, was not favourable. In fact, we had packed raincoats, umbrellas, wellingtons and a book entitled 'First Aid for the Drowning.'For most of the week, however, the rain lashed down during the nights, then in the daytime the sun shone, burning and shrivelling any exposed face or limb without mercy. We slapped on sun cream but not as fast as the sun slapped our cheeks and foreheads.  Oh, all right, …

Evidence that literary characters' school reports show early troubling signs

Lennie Small - Of Mice and MenLennie has been seated at the very back of the class so that other pupils can see the board. He cannot be faulted for effort in his academic studies but struggles with most aspects of the curriculum. He does love nature, especially animals, although since the unfortunate incident when Lennie was allowed to take the class gerbils home for the holidays, we have tried to divert his interests. He is generally well-behaved in school; nevertheless, he did receive a detention for shouting 'I like my beans with ketchup' repeatedly across the school dining room, upsetting the catering staff. Also, he has joined the after-school Film Studies club but continually insists they watch clips of 'Watership Down'; other pupils are wearying of this. Lennie usually does relate well to other pupils, but is less popular with the girls, most of whom have taken to wearing pastel colours to school. With further work on his social skills, Lennie should have a brig…

Evidence that overflowing Tupperware cupboards aren't the only problem later life brings

Ben Cottam (@TheCottam) posted this statement on Twitter today: 'When you're growing up, no one ever tells you how much of your adult life will be spent pushing tumbling Tupperware into cupboards.'

I know, right? Why does no one say?

And what else does no one tell you about adult life, particularly later adult life?

I have made a list. 

1. That one day you will say, 'They'll freeze, dressed like that,' and 'Let's go home. It's nearly 10pm,' and think nothing of it.

2. That a summer will come when you will start the days dressed in cardigan and socks and only take them off when it's warm enough to leave the kitchen door open.

3. That police officers, teachers and nurses, rather than getting older, get younger, birthday by birthday, and that one day you will be burgled and then visited by a seven year old with a notebook and a helmet.

4. That the music in pubs and clubs becomes louder, brasher and more sweary, year on year, so that one evening you…

Evidence that Fran is wrestling with some big questions

Have you heard of Klondyke Kate?

She's a female wrestler (real name Jayne Porter) whose career began in the 1970s when she was only 14. Here she is in action. (She's the one using the other woman as a seat.)

Her final fight in 2011 was against another female wrestler, her daughter, Connie Steele! Connie still fights today. 
Here's Connie, not in action, unless she has her foot on the face of an opponent but that wasn't included in the shot.  

Why am I mentioning Klondyke Kate today? 

No, I'm not thinking of a career change. 

No, I would NOT look good in a sparkly leotard. Imagine!

Not even WITH the lights low, thank you.

No, the reason she's on my mind is that I often use a 1992 newspaper article about Klondyke Kate with my English students. It's a great example of a 'profile piece' and helps them with description skills. I read it with a student this morning in our Zoom lesson. 

The article in question, by Liza Cody the fiction writer, explains how Klondyke…

Evidence that Fran did perhaps learn something at school after all

I've just eaten a chocolate eclair and it reminded me to tell you about Mrs Gough.

Mrs Gough taught me to cook at the Warwickshire grammar school I attended in the 1970s. I think they called her subject 'Domestic Science' officially but it was 'Cookery' to all of us. 

Now the subject is called Food Technology or Food Science or How to Grow Up Without Knowing How to Make A Stew. There is cookery involved, but there's also much scientific theory, assessment of nutrition, costing of dishes, market research, and other sub-topics that Mrs Gough would have sniffed at. The science, in 1976, was what the boys did, while the girls cooked them steaming sausage rolls to give out at break time in the hope of an invitation to the school disco to snog behind the school hall curtains.

No, Mrs Gough was all about the pastry - puff, buttery rough puff, tough puff, shortcrust, longcrust, flaky, tough-flaky, choux buns and eclairs, puffy and otherwise.

She was all about the bread -…

More evidence that Fran isn't shy of tackling the really big topics

Let's talk ear wax. Or is ear wax, like politics and religion and how often people actually do break wind, not for polite conversation? 

We all have ear wax, yes? I looked it up and Auntie Google says it's there to moisturise the ear, to fight off infections, and to act as a shield, stopping dust, dirt, insects and presumably lost sparrows from finding their way inside your head and into your brain. 

I'm liking my ear wax more, reading that. There could be nothing worse than trying to think through something complicated like difficult long division or the Times Cryptic Crossword or the concept of nihilism only to find a random small bird flitting about among your grey cells as though he didn't have a wife and three tiny children to feed. 

But ear wax is all very well until it begins to proliferate as though in a bid to take over Warwickshire, like mine is currently doing. 

The ear wax build-up happens to me about once every two years. Normally, I go to the GP surgery, see …