Evidence that Fran pays more attention to trees than she used to

My week in photographs. Enjoy!  1. This is the view from my bedroom window. Our house overlooks a Victorian graveyard (or 'gravy yard' as my granddaughter dubbed it and as we now call it). How about this for illustrating the difference between evergreen and deciduous? I can't help thinking that the bright orange one looks smug and flaunty as though it knows it's more interesting than its green neighbour. All we need, though, is a windy day, and the smugness will be wiped from its face as it shivers, embarrassed by its nakedness, while the green tree revels in its warm coat.  2. This is Guys Cliffe House, an ancient ruin which I pass on my daily walk. 'Hello, ancient ruin!' I call to it and back comes the echo 'Hello, ancient ruin!' Rude! Thirteen years ago, when we were exploring the Warwick area with a view to moving here and renting a house, I took a similar picture and sent it to all my friends, saying something like, 'It might need an update but

Evidence that you are middle-aged

1. Your earworm is the tune from the Hovis advert. 2. When you yawn, the skin on your face takes an hour to regroup.  3. You know how to write a letter.  4. When you bend to tie a shoelace, you clean a skirting board while you're there. 5. You'd be upset if a Christmas hamper didn't contain tinned ham and brandy snaps.  6. Your diary is made from paper.  7. You take someone under 30 with you to buy a mobile phone.  8. You have curry powder on your nose after reading its ingredients. 9. Your pyjama bottoms are not shorts. 10. Telephones in your dreams have dials.  11. You have fourteen spectacles cases in the house. 12. When you spot yourself in a shop window, you think you're being followed. 13. You still think shit is a swearword.  14. You remember curries with sultanas in them.  15. You pile things on the bottom stair 'ready to go up' because you're not.  16. You still call it 'the world wide web'.  17. Your definition of high heels has changed d

A poem to celebrate National Poetry Day, Libraries Week and 88 year olds everywhere

I wrote this poem, which was published in MsLexia magazine, after seeing a news clip about an 88 year old lady. She had recently learned to read and had therefore discovered a whole new world of stories. You can see the news report by clicking on the link under the poem.  Once upon a time Once upon a time, all she could do was drift her hands along each silent spine or turn hieroglyph pages like a visitor lost in the streets of a foreign land, her forehead a frown of lines – a message of bewilderment she hoped others could not read.   Then, like whispers, or baby footsteps, or leaves dropping like scraps of tissue kissed by an infinitesimal breeze, shapes on pages birthed sounds on her lips - each day a new one, a tiny gift – and in her mind, dragons, heroines, castles, pirates, the sighs of reunited lovers.  Watch the news clip - have a tissue handy

Reasons why marriage preparation classes need a radical overhaul

They say that opposites attract and, after 39 years of marriage, I'd suggest this theory is best tested by going to a supermarket together with a long list.  It could even substitute for marriage preparation classes. It would teach a young couple so much more about their different approaches to life than mere theories ... Our conversations go something like this when we're in Tesco:  Him: We need to buy teabags.  Me: Okay, let's get these. I'll put them in the trolley. Done.  Him: Hang on. Me: What? Him: How many teabags in that pack?  Me: 240. Can we go now?  Him: For how much?  Me: How would I know? Let's just buy them. It's what we need. Him: You look at the price tab, here. It says £3.49. That's steep.  Me: Is it? Him: These ones here are only £2.99. Me: But we don't usually buy that make. I'm bored now. Can we move on to crisps?  Him: I swear that tea's gone up. Me: Ah well. We're not exactly destitute. It's a few pence.  Him: It all

Reasons why Fran needs a gag, not just a mask

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

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

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