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Reasons why Fran needs a gag, not just a mask

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The driver, a man in his fifties, was standing outside his bus today, having a sneaky fag in the sunshine before the next trip. I waited to board, slipping on my mask.  'It's a steaming hot day,' he said. 'But I'm not one of those people who moans about the heat.' One of the talking bus drivers, I realised. They don't all want conversation, and neither might this one, after today.  'That's the best way to be,' I said, glad he'd mentioned it first, because I'd been about to moan about the heat. 'I don't moan when it's cold either,' he said.  Ah. Here I could show more empathy. 'Cardigans all the way for me.' 'Can't stand people who moan,' he said. 'If it's hot, they moan. If it's cold, they moan. They're never happy.' He began to mimic someone complaining. 'Ooooh, it's too  hot . Oooh, it's too cold. Moaners, the lot of 'em. ' I shook my head slowly from side to si

Reasons to love bookshops

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It's Independent Bookshop Week in the UK so I thought I'd post a poem I wrote in celebration of bookshops. It was published in the Bookseller magazine recently.    To bookshops (with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the jingle-jingle of the bell announcing my arrival with a smile: ‘You’re in a bookshop. All will now be well.’ I love the spines of books upon the shelf that promise romance, laughs and mysteries. I love the smell of paper, print and ink, the rustling of pages in the peace. I love the ‘Recommendeds’ and the ‘New’, the joyous promise of that corner chair that tells me I should choose a book and rest - convinces me that I have time to spare. I love, I love, the beauteous books you sell. (My bank account does not love thee so well.) What do you like best about bookshops? Do you have a favourite one? Tell me why. 

Reasons why Fran has been absent without leave

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Apologies for a long absence. I suspect this blog post will attract between three and five readers as blogs are like tender plants which, untended, droop and wither. I should know, as I have murdered plenty of plants in my time. I am hoping I haven't similarly asphyxiated my blog.  All Fran did was look at it. If you are here and reading this and are neither droopy nor withered, I thank you, and you are most welcome. Do come again and bring a friend.  Honest, m'lud, I have been slaving over a hot keyboard, writing a novel, and today I wrote the last chapter. I didn't know at the time that it was the last chapter until I looked back on it and realised that the story was finished. Sometimes stories don't ask proper permission; they just do their own thing, like recalcitrant toddlers, wonky shopping trolleys and viruses.  If you write yourself, you'll know that having finished a first draft is just one step on a long journey of edits, rewrites, plunges into pits of des

Evidence that those who send me junk mail should do their research

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An envelope dropped through the letterbox this week.  Here it is. In case you can't see it, the writing says, ' Important Information About Your Conservatory '.  1. We don't have a conservatory. 2. If the advertisers had peeked round the back of the house at our tiny garden, they'd have noticed that, had we added a conservatory, the lawn and the shed would have been inside it.     3. Within the envelope was information about how to maintain the conservatory we don't have. I must say, our conservatory maintenance costs are pretty manageable.  4. Also, there was information about how to buy a conservatory in case we don't have one. So, they lied.  5. There are inappropriate capitals on the message and if they knew anything about me they'd know that this would be enough to stop me buying their conservatories.  6. The writing is squeezed into the right hand corner. Do they think I will re-use this envelope for a handmade card? -  To my darling, sweet husband

Evidence that pandemics cause all kinds of communication issues

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Yesterday I visited the dentist.  Let me tell you about some of the communication issues I met. Communication #1. The email from the dentist.  Amongst the other 347 instructions regarding my consultation with the dentist about a broken tooth was this: 'Please do not use our customer toilets while you are here.'  I understand why this has to be so in the current Covid situation. But my bladder is made from cheap market-stall cling film these days, not its previous reinforced rubber. I thought back to Adam and Eve and to God saying, 'Don't eat from one particular tree,' and remembered how things turned out. I knew that as soon as I stepped over the threshold of the dentists' surgery, my bladder would want to do the one thing that was forbidden. My only option was, therefore, to visit the public conveniences in the town square once I climbed off the bus.  Communication #2  The sign in the public conveniences I washed my hands in the public conveniences using the au

Evidence that Fran should take more care in the kitchen

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A Tragedy Involving Froth I went into the kitchen, unaware of huge disaster waiting for me there. The bowl was stacked with dirty crocks, of course: the detritus of pork with apple sauce. In haste, for I was keen to watch TV,  I squirted in the Fairy recklessly which meant, before too long, the froth had frothed so frothily I knew all hope was lothed.  Imagine if the sea were all detergent - you’ll understand how things became so urgent. Huge bubbles on the ceiling and the floor and mutinously bubbling through the door and bubbles scaling walls just like Bear Grylls and on the windows and the windowsills. I wished that I had not been so remiss - I now had froth in every orifice - so, when I sneezed – a sneeze so loud and long -   a million bubbles added to the throng. Attacked by bubbles, terrified, afflicted, I waited for my death by Fairy Liquid.   The emergency services knew Fran was under there, somewhere 

Reasons why Fran can now forgive the ironing board incident

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It's nearly a month since Christmas and I still have my pile of books and notebooks from friends and family on a chair by the sofa. I can't bring myself to put them all away. There's no reason why I should. No one's dared to move the pile so that they can sit   sat on the chair for a while anyway.  But these are lovely presents: novels, books of poetry, books about poetry, delicious notebooks .... what's not to like? I haven't always received such pleasing gifts.  I was married in April 1982. At the end of that month, I turned 20. Yes, a young bride, and one who wasn't so delighted with her birthday present from her new husband.  'I've bought you an ironing board cover, too,' he said, looking pleased. 'It's the right size. I've checked.'  And indeed he had. It was prettier than the plain blue one on this picture: flowery and cheerful.  He had tried.  Nevertheless, we had words. I was compassionate, don't worry. I was his first