World Snow Day

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 17 January 2021

We didn't have snow, but it was cold out there, everybody wrapped up and walking in the sunshine. It got me thinking about families, and that there's something to be said for absentee parenting.

My mother was integral to my life; cooking, ironing, even writing an essay for me, that I snuck up my sleeve, which got me into a fancy schmancy girls school. Years later, after I'd left drama school, I found out that my mother had instructed the college canteen to feed me certain foods, her motherly love weighed out in generous portions. It didn't help with my weight or my addiction to Viennas, chips and peas from Blooms' Kosher restaurant in Aldgate, but she tried. My mother was the epitome of Jewish motherhood, always in the front row, taking notes and compiling crosswords with the names of my lovers. She was neither judgmental nor sanctimonious, but she was damaged, so, much of my young life was spent applying appropriate balms.

The pressure of a mother, however well intentioned, who didn't realise her own dreams, took its toll. Years ago I worked with an astrologer - the daughter of an established actor - who berated me for doing my parents bidding not my own. She asked me what I really wanted to do with my life; my answer confounded her. I wanted to be a stripper with all its freedoms. I wanted a body that enabled me to wrap myself around a pole and stick two fingers up. I'm told that many daughters from abusive families have the same desires. Of course I didn't really want leery pervs sticking pound notes in my knicker elastic, but it was an expression of emancipation, not to mention a rebuttal of my father. I never did become a stripper, I chose to expose myself in the meedja instead then, after all sorts of therapeutic work, I realised that those familial apron strings had been so firmly tied I'd spent years struggling for breath, permanently winded.

So my mother, stubborn, argumentative and fiercely protective of me, shaped me and my mothering. I was so determined to rebel against my upbringing that I determined my daughter would have her own life. She left home at 15 going on 16 and did her own thing, as much as she dared, which meant she made her own mistakes - a lot. From tobacco, whacky or otherwise, to ridiculously unsuitable boyfriends. My daughter did, what I've only just learnt to do, take herself seriously. Not so seriously that she is insufferable but serious enough to believe in herself and manifest her dreams.

My father, on the other hand, was only supportive when he was there which was practically never. From missing bonfire nights, to birthdays, from frightening off boyfriends by whacking their cheeks with wet lettuce leaves, or just not turning up for performances my father, though absent, still left an indelible imprint on my psyche. I'm exactly like him, apart from the moustache. He had the habit of appearing unannounced to check out my relationships. More than once a boyfriend was revealed hidden under blankets, under books, under duress. My mother got it in the neck when I didn't agree to marry each one of those suitors.

When I saw 'Les Miserables' I was struck by the geezer standing at the foot of the stage telling us that he was going to tell us his story. Standing out of the way of our children's journey is difficult enough but standing out of the way of ourselves so we can write our own authentic story is never-ending. Hovering parents, fearful, controlling parents, miserable fucked up parents, should be confined to the footnotes.

A life story is a life well lived, with its ups and downs, it's challenges and victories. It's taken me 72 years to finally understand the cosmic joke. We do what we do and then we die. We're born and then, whether we like it or not, we perish. It's the bit in the middle that's tricky. There are those who say what's the fucking point - and there have been times when I have chanted that very mantra - but isn't that the point that there is no point. Walking this morning, the air clear, the clouds parted. I was thinking about the experiment of elderly citizens being housed near orphaned children. Everyone's a winner. And I was thinking about our young ones in the middle of this panfuckingdemic, how Corona has dented their development and chucked ruddy great boulders in their path. I wondered about the effect of social distancing and lack of communal activities, and I was struck by the rich jetting off to St. Barts whilst the rest of us make do with a trip to Lidl. And I was thinking this too will pass but I just wish it would hurry the fuck up.

There are those esoteric types who say we choose our lives; that we choose our parents, our experiences and the time we live in. Who the fuck would choose Treblinka, or the Yemen? Why would you choose to be a refugee bobbing about in the ocean or a homeless alcoholic in Glasgow? There are those that say pain is certain but suffering is optional; that life is but a series of lessons and that nobody said that life was going to be easy. One thing my mother did teach me was that language was optional. A problem or a challenge? A glass half full and all that bollox. But despite her misgivings she was right. She had a really tough life but still managed to make it till she was 90.

Just before she died she asked me whether I could hear the children mewing. I couldn't of course, only she heard them, but the healer at the end of her bed told us the veil gets lifted and many people, at the end of their lives, talk about hearing children singing. It's not over until the fat lady sings, praps it's the kids?

How to deal with this epidemi-shitstorm is the name of the game. There's Brazilian sambas and Benedict Cumberbatch. There's Rachmaninoff and Ekhart Toll. There's Stevie Wonder and doughnuts. There's sunrises and sets and there's a whole pile of days that keep coming if we're lucky.

So unless you've genuinely had enough, I would adopt my arsehole father's advice;

"Shut the fuck up and have another Asti Spumanti."

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I'm pink therefore I'm Spam

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 14 January 2021

Improbable behaviour + Imperfect leadership = Imminent Impeachment.

As Nobby-No-Mates, stalks the corridors of diminished power, the lacklustre Buffoon attacks his allies with petulant jibes, his auto-cued speeches delivered through a pancaked mouth, his conversational tics lulling us into a false sense of reality. Like a wet newspaper, its' pages flapping and slapping in a murky puddle we try to read the saga of Trumpington as it comes to an end.

The mewling quim debriefs his supporters, abandons them, misleads them then talks in tongues to incite them, preparing them for another skirmish on January 19th.

I am so tired of the soap opera that we call politics. And yet my finger still types in 506 - CNN. Or Channel 4, or Tom Bradby or at a push, Fiona The Bruce. I think watching the news is a distraction from actually having to do anything about anything.

With a new buzzy headline I leave it until it's been demoted to page five, the heats removed and I can deal with it. We now have too many words to read too many stories to understand. We now have mountains of muchness we are meant to know. Disseminating fact from fiction is undeniably exhausting, I now leave it to the minds who enjoy Sudoku. Sometimes I turn the sound off when Charlene White is in mid flow and read the subtitles, it's like watching people dance without hearing the music, strange manoeuvrings.

Words and more words, phrases packed with cliches. Noisy barrages of more words. When the rain hits the skylight in the kitchen I can breathe a sigh of relief. I have turned off the cacophony and I can hear the sound of the weather. But it's not like I'm being held captive and being force fed Nina Nanna, I do it to myself. I'm like the man who eats peanut butter sandwiches everyday and complains.

"Get your wife to make you something different." says his colleague. "What wife?' says our man "I make them myself."

I bring on my own gloom. I worry about the 'what ifs'. I angst over the 'if only's'. I think about not thinking then get hung up on thinking that my not thinking is too irresponsible so I think about something grown up like what did Chris Whitty look like at school, and what does he look like when he's climaxing, and I berate myself for such shallow thoughts so I take the plunge and think ever deeper thoughts like what does Chris Whitty look like naked and why does he look like a melting wax dummy. Then I worry that thinking about the very nature of thinking makes me a procrastinator because rather than doing, thinking about doing is just as good as doing, only we all know that that's not true because thinking about turning the kettle on without turning the kettle on, doth not a pot of Earl Grey make.

So the days merge. The conversation is but a list of chores. A trip to the shop, once a week, to buy coriander and Sharon fruit. The rest of the time is whatever floats your boat plus telly watching and naval gazing.

On Wednesday I collected up all my crystals and put them in bowls of water and sprinkled salt over them, took them out into the garden put them on the table and left them for three days under the moon. When I collected them today they lay under a thin sliver of ice. After their moon bath, the rose and white quartz, the amethyst and lapis lazuli are sparkling again. It took me some time to replace them back around the house. I hadn't realised just how much dust had accumulated so I sprayed polish over shelves and sponged window ledges, I collected up dead leaves from the fig tree in the attic and watered the Begonia Rex in the front window.

I put the radio news on at 5.00. God help me. Whilst preparing ladies fingers I shouted at Evan Davis "I don't need to hear it anymore I know what's happening'". I turned him off as I mixed garlic, onions, and a squirt of tomato paste, slowly cooked them then stirred in some cream cheese and fresh tomato and laid the mixture into the open rounds of big portobello mushrooms. I sprinkled coarse black pepper and kosher salt over them, slid them into the bottom oven and got the 'oosbind to turn the sound up on the TV. Here we go again with the 6.00 o'clock news

I am confused now by Boris with his U-turns and back tracks. Enough I thought. "I dont need to hear it anymore I know what's happening." I screamed at the news as I made a salad of spinach and green beans, carrots and white radish, lettuce, tomato and cucumber and dressed it with pure organic tahini. "Fuck off" I sighed as I switched channels to watch Matt Fry because I love him. There he was standing in Washington DC in front of short haired soldiers in army combats and I wondered who knitted him his big scarf, and then I thought however much I love him I've heard it all before and I know what's happening. And what's happening makes my heart hurt and my head ache.

It wasn't always like this, was it, with rolling news, and microphone wielding commentators choking us with yet more information, but here I am doing the very same thing mouthing off publicly. To mouth off means you have to think, and thinking means swinging round a slalom of thoughts, zigzagging between what's right and wrong, winding in and out of thorough thoughts and always reading the small print.

Well I don't like the small print, haven't got time. I give it to the old git who methodically pieces it all together then tells me what I need to know. I let him make the connections. Then roaring like a lioness I told somebody to turn the fucking television off whilst I poured cooked potatoes into a small frying pan added fresh chopped onion and a squirt of olive oil. Chucking expletives at the television, like so many darts, I muttered under my breath as I lay the table, I know what's happening, I've heard it all before.

Jaques Loussier plays 'Gymnopedie' and the babbling stops.

The air is filled with mellifluous music as I lay out the dishes of hot food. We eat quietly. Conversation at a minimum because we know what's happening and we've heard it all before. It is decided that hanging in now is the only way, holding on to the rails as the rollercoaster of 2021 whips us up and down.

For a split second thinking stops. All is quiet save for Erik Satie's notes. I don't want to be thinking anything. I want my monkey mind to stop its chattering so for the duration of the meal it's just chewing and scraping and slurping that fills the kitchen. As the table got cleared I had a thought.

I thought were I not to think then what? 'I think therefore I am.'

'Cogito, ergo sum.' said Descartes.

But my old dad used to say 'You know what thought thought, thought thought he'd shat himself and when he looked he had'.

I think they were both right. What do you think?

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What's it all about?

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 6 January 2021

He was the handsomest boy at school, he was also the cleverest. Studying in the school library our eyes met over my broken bag of 'Treets', 'milk chocolate covered peanuts with an outer shell of dark brown glazed candy,' The sweet nuts scattered and bounced ricocheting round the parquet floor like machine gun fire. We were not allowed to eat in the library so I was asked to leave.

The boy sought me out in a corridor and invited me to the cinema, 'The Fall of the Roman Empire.' We queued up at the ticket booth. He paid as he worked in his uncles greengrocers delivering fruit and veg to the local mental home. The usherette ripped the end of our paper tickets. We walked up the sweeping staircase into the cinema with it's rouched, satin pink curtains. We took our seats in the back row, of course we did, I was16, he a year older, and he snogged my face off.

He went up to Birmingham, and I decided to follow, me in my second year at Drama school, he at the University. The idea was we would live together then go to the Edinburgh Festival performing in perhaps the most pretentious play of 1969. I had to sit cross legged and burn joss sticks as the audience entered the building. We were looking forward to a summer of lurve. As it turned out we were housed in a building where the girls had to stay in a dorm with the girls and the boys with the boys, any intimacy that was to be had had to be had on the banks of the Waters of Leith. In the end he ran off with the theatre Director, a hairy man with dubious passions. During this time I had to get a job to fund my weeks of independence so I signed onto an agency. I lied - I had never used a Dictaphone before, I could't type, and my dictation was more shithand than short. I took my typewriters erasure pencil where're I went. By the end of the day I'd worn it down to a stub.

I was put in a solicitors office. They fired me.

I was put in a car factory. They fired me.

I'd work till five then drag my weary body back to his room in the halls of residence. This was hardly 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' it was more 'A Taste of Honey.' I was deeply unhappy. Handsome is as handsome does, and the boy who I was in thrall with was less than satisfactory.

And this is where the story begins. One night, I was woken up by a little red wooden bird, sitting on the headboard of the bed. The little red bird whistled red wooden notes, crotchets and minims flying up to the ceiling. I said nothing to my sleeping partner. I would sit up in bed and the little red bird whistled and nodded and threw me a golden latticed ball. What to do? I asked him. The bird told me I had all my own answers. So after Edinburgh, having read the Lotharios' type written note telling me he had pissed off to Middlesborough, I called my father who turned up in his bottle green E-Type Jag with a can of Skol and a bagel.

"I never liked him." said my father through a mouthful of smoked salmon. I tried to talk about the little red wooden bird but my father was a Marxist realist a man of few words until he wasn't. Still that little red bird was as real to me as the cream cheese that dribbled down my tearstained chin.

The unseen world was never spoken of in my house, neither was feminism, astrology and certainly not God. Not that I'm suggesting the little red bird was a visitation from Jehovah, but the unseen world started to present itself to me. Like the time I went to sing in a pub in North London.

I've forgotten the name of the pub and the blind piano player, the drummer and I still socialise after 50 years, but he doesn't remember the gig at all. The gig was a dare to myself. Needing to know whether I had what it took to perform - alone - without the back up of my theatrical group. It worked. I was applauded and lauded and the landlady booked me. Mid set I was accosted by a crowd of women in the ladies including a woman in a faux leopard skin coat.

Standing at the bus stop to travel back to Fulham I flagged down the drummers battered blue Ford van. Only it wasn't the drummer driving but Len who was married to Lally she of the fake faux leopard. They offered to drive me home

"We dont like seeing young girls on their own of a night." Said Lally. And I was young, 22, and almost fearless. I say almost, it was more a blind naivete. I was wearing red and white striped sox, a red and white striped tee shirt, with a white Victorian apron thingy over the top - all the rage then - white pedal-pushers and sweet Mary Jane shoes, my shiny black hair was cut into a bob. I looked like a cross between 'Where's Wally' and an Oriental 'Snowhite'.

Len drove us to the Embankment and parked up. He needed the pubic lavatory. He climbed out of the van and left me and Lally sitting quietly near Westminster Bridge. I was sprawled behind the driver and passenger seat. Lally turned round very slowly, took my hand, and told me there was nothing to be afraid of, that I was not to be scared but she had been looking for me for three weeks. Not only was I scared I very nearly had to join Len in the lavatory.

Len climbed back into the van, turned on the ignition and off we went. In the amount of time it took to get to the Fulham Palace Road Lally spoke to me in Yiddish, talked about my last Dutch squeeze, revealed my father was being ripped off by a woman whose name began with an 'M', described pieces of jewellery, including a snake ring, in detail, and that there was a 'Maisha' in my life. I had never heard the name before. Lally declared that my fathers' mother was giving me all this information to reassure me that I had lots of talent and that the world would be my oyster. Oyster schmoyster, I needed to get out of that van. By the time we reached SW6 I was a gibbering wreck. Lally gave me a piece of paper with her telephone number on it, told me to call her whenever, and without a bye your leave Lenny sped off up Cloncurry Street back to fuck knows where.

I telephoned my mother who confirmed that there was indeed a snake ring which belonged to Great Aunt Becky, that my father was in fact being ripped off by a woman called Maureen, and that my paternal grandmother's nickname for my father was MAISHA!

I hung up on my mother and called Lally's number. It was engaged. It was engaged the next day and the day after that. It was a telephone hung on a wall in a house of flats. The subscribers name was unknown.Then fast forward a dozen years and I was rearranging some books, from out of the pages of 'Fat is a Feminine Issue' the piece of paper with Lally's telephone number fell into my fingers. I called it but it was still engaged. I tried for days but always an engaged tone. I then had to make a choice, whether to believe all this woo-woo stuff or get all Brian Cox about it and dump it in the crankology bin. I decided to keep an open mind, although the thought of Lally and her invisible pals watching me all the time certainly cramped my style.

When my mother died she left us a little money so I took myself off to a detoxifying retreat in Glastonbury, we lived on juices and entertained ourselves with daily colonics. Understandably I chose to have my own space with my own bathroom. On the third night I woke up to a man at the end of my bed. He was wearing a baggy tweed suit and looked at me through dark framed glasses. The image didn't last very long, the retreat owners told me he hung around in that room and checked out the new residents.

I did not sleep one wink for the rest of my stay, although the mere thought of him did aid my colonic irrigation.

So now we come to last Saturday night. I finally fell asleep at around midnight. I awoke with a start to a girl standing next to my bed. Young, big hair, arms outstretched her mouth open in the middle of a word. She appeared for less than a nanno second. I had been sweating. I mean so wet and disgusting was I I had to change the sheets. My hair soaked, my body cold, I returned to bed wearing a fleecy top, but strangley calm. Not a hint of Glastonbury fear anywhere.

"It's your spirit guide coming to help you." said various know-it-alls.

My niece said she saw the very same young woman when she slept in our bedroom years ago and a guest, who slept in the attic last summer, said she had the same visitation. I felt strangely comforted knowing that I wasn't going potty. I know our cottage is haunted, it was built in 1690. Wearing a leather apron full of blacksmith tools, the blacksmith who used to live here, would guide my mother up the worn stone steps.

'Lovely man," my mother would say "But I never see his head." The dawter heard the blacksmith and his wife shouting at each other at the foot of the steps whilst the metallic ding ding of the hammer on his anvil was loud. We could never get Jackson, our lovely dog, to go down the cellar steps.

"I'm not fucking surprised." said a mystical friend. "That couple at the foot of the stairs are always bloody arguing."

I hear things, see things, feel things. But don't we all? Now, I'm told, we're going through a real transition. Lots of empaths and sensitive people, lots of intuitives and mentalists are seeing and feeling weird things. After tonight's storming of the count in Washington, and the Trumplicans revealing themselves to be nothing but an ill informed renta-crowd from a David O Selznik movie, after tonights undemocratic antics, I'm beginning to think that the times they really are-a-changing. Lock down is making us all review our situations. Curfews and restrictions are requiring we take a look at ourselves and our purpose. Climate change is demanding we look at the time line of our lives and the future that we will bring about. And thems that straddle the dimensions keep telling us we are now truly at the beginning of the age of Aquarius. I'm prepared to listen to everything now since the older I get the less I seem to know about anything. 'DOWN TO EARTH' is a wonderful film, you can watch it on You Tube, it's full of people who don't scoff at the unseen.

I don't know whether my apparition is heralding in a new dawn, or whether she's a figment of my very fertile imagination, but she's clearly trying to tell me something. If only Lally hadn't fucked up her telephone number I could have given her a call.

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Posted by Jeni in | 2 January 2021

This morning I walked.

The road was wet and I had on a pink sweater, a green hoodie and a blue anorak. I put the green and blue hoods up and walked. Down the hill, across the road onto a path thick with slippery leaves. I walked up hill and then it levelled off. It was early and only one house had lights on. Existential thinking takes a bit of effort at the moment, since we're all focussed inwards. Making myself look out at the world is a conscious thing. So I listened to the cock crowing, and watched raindrops dripping off the wooden fence that I squeezed through

Then I walked though the outdoor climbing centre, waiting to be told off, but instead I was greeted by four skiers and a teacher wearing their masks. Down the forbidden avenue and home. The crows cawed and Dennis the cat shouted at me for leaving him in the kitchen.

Then I drove to the post office to send off a dozen thank you letters; the price of a stamp has gone up to 66p for a second class post so I had a mini mental rant and decided if I have to pay a little extra to keep our lovely posties working then so be it. Now that the parcel delivery companies and Amazon have cornered the market and the government have abandoned the Royal Mail it won't be long before real letters will stop landing on real mats through real letterboxes and the delight of opening a real envelope will be a thing of the past.

When I arrived home I boiled the tea kettle from the filter tap for hot water and lemon, made my 32oz cold water and chia seeds concoction, shredded a bowl of salad sprinkled it with Kosher salt, by far the best tasting, and boiled my bottle kettle for two hot water bottles. Yes I have two kettles, the bottle kettle water gets reused and the build up of limestone does not interfere with anything. My tea kettle has no sediment so my Rooibosh, and various other herby teas, not to mention coffee, comes out clean and fresh and doesn't leave a stain on me cups.

It's cold. I'm going to lie in an Epsom salt bath, squirt in some 'Badidas', an annual bubbly gift from the hubbly, and read another 'oosbind gift, a delicious little novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner - 'Lolly Willowes' described by a critic as 'a great shout of life'

Shouting is one of my traits and living is another. But it would be naive of me to pretend that living is easy at the moment.

If I were a 25 year old rock chick, sporting a thong and dallying around in Mexico with my handsome, hedge fund boyfriend, living would be a different kind of easy. But I've forgotten what it's like to gambol in the sun, and my last thong got lost in a seventy year old crevice.

If I were a Hollywood star who had expensive, shiny skin and giggled on the Graham Norton Show it would be another kind of easy, but the last time I had a facial my beautician was twenty years younger, recovering from breast implants and smiling through porcelain implants.

If I were an award winning writer, like JK Rowling or V.S. Naipaul, it would be a rarified easy, but the last time my literary agent read my recent book she asked me whether I wanted her to read it all. I deleted her from my favourites.

If I were a sensational celebrity chef with a rack of books behind me it would be a particular kind of easy, but my skill on GFL was not cooking, it was eating.

I am not suggesting that life is easier for them than it is for me, all of us have our damp patches and dark corners, but their kind of easy is a damn sight easier than my kind of easy because they have somehow managed to keep going as if the Plague has passed them by.

The quietude of Covid is unsettling. The soggy ground is unforgiving. The price of stamps is unsatisfactory and the lack of socialising is unnatural.

I have a stack of things I do to keep me optimistic and occupied, but sometimes - like today - I'm crippled by the rusty portcullis that leads to my future. Once I can get my toe in the door and the daffodils start dancing with the crocuses, I'll feel less frozen.

Today I had a delivery of eco sponges, fucking hundreds of them - my finger must have slipped when I ordered them - but they're perfect for the flagstones on the kitchen floor. They are sitting on the table willing me to get the mop and start the mopping, but they can keep themselves to themselves, because it's Saturday January 2nd, and I'm not ready to make house wiffery my chosen occupation.

So it's off to the spice shop for ladies fingers and Chinese lettuce, basmati rice and a big bunch of coriander - life goes on.....

Happy New Year

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Here we go gathering Nuts in.....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 27 December 2020

I know it's early but we've just taken The Tree down. Oh! No! I hear you exclaim. It had to go. The dawter found it on the side of the road just before Christmas. A lovely tall tree with lots of needles that smelt divine.

We have a fake tree that we've used for over thirty years - it's stored in a red zippy bag in the cellar. Several branches, with bent arms, slot over a metal pole. With the help of a CD of carols played on brass instruments, salted peanuts and toffee tasting sherry, the branches are patiently teased out and made to look like a real Christmas tree. Gold and silver balls, coloured rainbows, lots of chubby cherubim from Woolworths (circa 1984), some glassy flamingoes from a shoot I did in Vienna bought in the Cristelmarkt, and lots of variable baubles that Mary sends us year after year are deliberately dangled. My favourite is a little yellow metal bell with 1994 handpainted on the side.

The tree goes either on top of the piano on top of my grandmothers green chenille table cloth, or in front of the window. We move the armchair to the stove and the tree takes pride of place in front of the Buddha that sits on the window sill.

This year the delicious real tree was shaved into shape by the woodcutting co-habite, and fitted into a green metal Christmas tree holder. (The West Yorkshire pedant informs me that I could refer to it as a 'tripod') On went the baubles, down went the sherry, out rung Grimethorpe Colliery Band and, standing on tiptoes, I stuck the little discoloured, plastic angel on the very top of the tree and tied the strings on various chocolate thingies that were draped round the piney branches.

After two days some of the needles dropped; after four days more needles fell. And then my friend Dame Sylve of Chatham - an ex-headteacher so she knows everything - enquired after the wellbeing of our evergreen conifer.

"It's shedding" I said plaintively as I took another sip of Montillado. "It's shedding and the carpet looks like a Swedish reindeer sanctuary."

"You have to water it a lot," she said matter of factly.

"Well fuck my arse and call me Wendy," I said "I didn't know that you had to water a tame Christmas tree."

"Well you do" she said, ever so matronly. "We dig ours up every year, and water it, then Tone puts it back in the ground." Tone, Dame Syvles' husband, is also an ex-head-teacher so he is very industrious and intelligent. Not only does he keep bees, he grows spinach and tomatoes and all sorts on his allotment, turns wood on his lathe and makes award winning honey and beeswax candles. He tends their extremely healthy Christmas Tree which he pulls out every year, and places it in their big room all covered with real decorations from proper places - not like Woolies.

Today the old git and I had the first row, post Xmas. Having taken down the trinkets and snaffled the chocolate into both pockets of my pj's; having wound up the lights and waded through a two inch carpet of needles on the carpet, he said louder than usual,

"Leave the fookin' thing there," his lips as tight as Dennis' arse. "Those fookin' needles will go everywhere. I'll go and get soom secateurs."

As is the way, after centuries of marital blitz, I didn't listen and dragged it through the piano room, into the kitchen and onto the step leading out into the garden.

I swear there were enough pine needles to fill all of Santas Sacks. Thousands and thousands of sharp, little green needles stuck to my socks, the door mats and the armchair. Thousands and thousands of those offending articles rained into the cats dish, under the dresser and all over my slippers and his new moccasins. The old git came in, his voice now all 'Brian Blessed', holding aloft the secateurs. He eyed up the damage and squeezed a "For fook's sake" out of his pursed Morley mouth.

Patience is not my watchword, as you know, so I lowered my cow eyes and apologised for the mess.

"You did not apologise," argued the disgruntled woodman.

I did, however, inform the irate Northerner that the Christmas tree had completely filled the hoover bag. We have pink jobs and blue jobs in this house. I do everything whilst he changes the hoover bag, lays the stove, prunes the apple trees and fills the recycling bin with flattened cardboard boxes, empty wine bottles and his daily dose of ale tins.

All the decorations are in white plastic dustbin bags waiting to be decanted into their annual home of an old Asprey box big enough for baubles, bangles and beads. Two sets of lights are now tangled ready for their tins and it is nearly safe to walk barefoot.

But let's rewind. On Christmas night, after gifts had been opened and wrapping paper had been folded or scrunched into some of those empty cardboard boxes ready for the recycling bin, which is not being emptied until next Saturday I may add, the pile of dropped needles had their first hoovering. I stood back, looked at that apology for a tree, its naked branches drooping sadly over the rug, and went into the kitchen and pulled out some sharp scissors from the pencil mug on the dresser and snipped away at the spindly fingers. My varifocals let me down and without a moments hesitation I cut through the fairy lights. The room went dark, rather than a whoop of displeasure there was just a FFS-told-you-so-she's-at-it-again-sigh.

So upset was I that I had ruined a perfectly good ( and expensive ) string of white lights, I went into the kitchen to eat some more chocolates, waved my hand in the wrong direction and smashed one of my favourite bowls. If that wasn't enough, after serving up the red cabbage, sweet carrots, chestnuts & sprouts, roasted potatoes and succulent crispy parsnips, not to mention the addition of 'F'artichokes, I had forgotten to turn off the back burner on which I had carefully laid my oven gloves. Five minutes into the festive dinner the heavy oven gloves were flaming like a Dickensian plum pudding, sending smoke up into the air. Luckily, I damped them down before the smoke alarm went off.

2020's Christmas was not unlike the rest of 2020 - filled with magnificent disasters, although Harry Potter saved the day. I'd never seen the films but today we're onto number four. I lie in the beanbag - my body needing respite from various chocolate abominations; Cadbury's, Terry's, Lindt and snappy Daim bars accompanied by honey roasted peanuts - whilst counting all our friends who appear alongside Daniel Radcliffe.

When I woke up this morning, after three hours sleep, I clambered downstairs feeling queasy and weary, spinny and sick, and decided that the half cocked tree just had to go. It had served its purpose and I'm very grateful to have given it a home.

I am now sitting at the kitchen table with a huge cup of 'oosbind made coffee, whilst he solders two ends of wire together, ( I am reliably informed that it was 'THREE ends of wire!). And wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, he has fixed the string of white lights, peace and goodwill have returned again.

We did have a power cut last night and next door neighbours gazebo was blown into the road. The pub lost its outside dining area roof and our garden is littered with leaves and branches and now pine needles but thanks to the old git and his fiddling, thanks to God, as he likes to be called, when he declared 'let there be light', there was.

Now, if anybody knows who's been breaking into the Northern man's shed, could you let us know because there's a shoulder bag of peanuts and a shoulder bag of clothes pegs and there's bits of wood shavings on the work bench. The ageing martyr has found pegs IN with the bird's peanuts, peanuts in with the pegs and pegs and peanuts together in one of his wellington boots, not to mention wood shavings, pegs and peanuts littering the floor. The old fucker is understandably confused, bemused and decidedly dischuffed.

Since he's spent the last four hours tidying up after me he gave me an accusatory look, raising one of his actor's brows.

"You cannot be serious," I said in my best John McEnroe. "Why the flaming hell would I chuck pegs and peanuts all over your fucking shed?"

His look said it all. So now he's put the pegs back in the peg bag, the nuts back in the nuts bag, hoovered up the wood shavings and hung a little metal basket over the door so that the intruder will have his brains bashed in and the living daylights smashed out of him. The Northern trapper is rigging up his hunter's camera and is thinking of laying a trip wire across the door so that the night trawler will not only have his head smashed in but will fall flat on his face. I'm saying he, it could be a female spook, or a fox or a mouse, a rat or a badger or Dennis, or even one of the next door neighbours or the farmer, or even a squirrel.

The 'oosbind has just been to inspect the camera, opened the door and walked into the hanging basket and smashed his very own head. He has also placed the bald tree outside on the path, in front of the kitchen, thus fucking up whomsoever decides to fiddle with his peg bag. The forlorn tree is waiting to be shredded. I know how it feels.

But 'onest it weren't me guv. 2020 has turned into a strange one but trust me when I say that in 43 years I have never, ever messed with my husbands nuts.

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Ode to 2020

Posted by Jeni in | 20 December 2020

One potato

Two potato

Three potato


I'm in Tier two so you can fuck off out the door.

Five potato

Six potato

Seven potato


You're in Tier 4 so you can fuck off out the gate.

Nine potato

Ten potato

Eleven potato


Whatever Tier you're in we'll have Christmas by ourselves

One Potato

Two potato

Three potato


Boris and his cronies are the sons of Tory whores

Five potato

Six potato

Seven potato


Christmas time is cancelled and we all await our fate.

Jingle balls, jingle bells

Jangle all the way

Oh what fun we'll have this year

Now that Covid has put pay

To Jingle balls and jingle bells

That jangle all the way

I've flipped my lid, cos I'm a Yid - I don't care anyway.

T'was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,

Sanitisers were dripping to the waltzes of Strauss

Masks were abounding, as the germs reached their apex,

And we buttered our parsnips, wearing gloves made from latex.

One potato

Two potato

Three potato


All Tories are bastards

But I've said all that before.

Five potato

Six potato

Seven potato


We're all off to Paradise

Unless it's all too late

So have a merry Christmas

Keep your kisses small and tight

And close the doors to everyone

On this eery Christmas Night.

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Land Slurry

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 14 December 2020

If my cottage is here, then down the road a bit and turning right will find you in what looks like French countryside.

Fields and old trees, the backs of two old cottages made out of ancient brickwork, dovecotes and peach trees, old hedges and my famous avenue.

So if you walk down the hill from my home of 38 years, turn right at the long white house and keep walking you are in the middle of old, old, old Sussex land. Carry on for a few paces and you hit the farm.

When we moved here in 1984 you could walk through the farm yard and head down towards a kissing gate. Through the kissing gate, a steep little slide and a real pond twinkling in the dappled light. To the end of the path, and in the tall trees woodpeckers could be heard peck, peck, pecking from a mile away.

We had moved from the East End, countryside meant nothing to me only darkness and leaves. And then I got to understand that elderberry's lived at the end of the lane and sweet chestnuts fell on the path to the farm. That mushrooms grew round the Limes and that ancient crab apple trees overhung the bottom field.

But then the farmer - who shall remain nameless mainly because I don't know his name - padlocked the kissing gate. Three rounds of metal chain and a lock. I wrote to the local council. I hadn't moved from London to be corralled I said, I hadn't moved from the docklands of Wapping to be denied entry to our very own green and pleasant land. I had not moved to this silly little publet to be locked out of my own backyard, ghettoised by the wealthy landowner who decided to declare war on the locals.

Our dog Jackson, beautiful boy that he was, had a run in with the farmer. My young daughters had run ins with the farmer. The old git knew how to play him and over the years the farmer mellowed. But then......

He bought a combine harvester that would do well on the plains of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, that would do well in the space of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado or New Mexico. A combine harvester so big and expensive that only the likes of Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin or Minnesota could be happy housing it. Combine harvesters that cost more than the council tax of the whole of Wealdon feels a trifle excessive. Combine harvesters that kill the field mice, decimate the moles, fuck the birdlife and disturb everything from butterflies to ladybirds should really be avoided at all cost, whoever pays.

The local population may have nattered behind closed gates but nobody said anything.

Then after a delicious walk through golden fields, carefully I may add, two green signs went up. All of a fucking sudden we were forbidden to let the dogs out, let the sun shine on our backs, all of a fucking sudden the farm made it clear that walkways belonged to him whilst the rest of us commoners, as directed through his new green notices, could politely fuck off.

And then this morning, after a walk with the dawter, in the other direction, we came home to a post from our local 'What's App' group.

The avenue which houses MY TREE WITH LIPSTICK STAINS FROM 38 YEAR S OF SNOGGING IT, has the very same green sign telling us we can walk this way and that but not down the avenue.

Well the local community is quietly fuming. Messages are flying around, The Ramblers association has been researched. We have until 2026 to make sure common land is kept common. Not just in the greedy clutches of The Sheriff of Nottingham or the Al Maktoum family or even Merton College Oxford, the landowners have farmed it, exploited it and even taken out their guns to murder foxes and badgers on it.

Where I live has been designated an area of natural beauty, people have enjoyed it since Henry the Eighth was too obese to walk it, the royal pudding stood stock still at 'Kings Standing' in Ashdown Forest as his surfs released deer for him to kill - pulling back the bow string engaging his flabby back muscles, pulling back the string so that his index finger of his fat, podgy hand was under his several chins and the string touched his nose and lips, the Queen's 14 x great uncle, slaughtered boars and stags to fill his wobbly royal belly whilst the surfs nibbled on his crumbs.

This is 2020 for God's sake. Not a time for them and us - although unfortunately it still is - this is 2020 not a time for greedy landowners to put up fences so that the common peasants can't enjoy a view.

I will be writing to the council again. I will tread the avenue whether the farmer in his den likes it or not. I shall go alone or with others, we will walk up and down the avenue until the unreasonable overseer gets tired of seeing hoi polloi walking the land.

Fences are for the likes of Trump. Borders are for the likes of Orban, restrictions are for the likes of Bolsonaro. Yes, all those leaders with fascistic tendencies had better watch their backs because the revolting mob, the monstrous regiment, and little ol' me, are beginning to say enough is enough.

I'm off now to have a walk down the avenue, although apparently the tees are unsafe and the farmer is liable for any accidents. Frankly I'm not buying it. Life is fraught with danger, wobbly bridges, rising tides, Covid Air and arrogant farmers who are trying to keep us in our place. If he wants to make it safe for future use then let's all be told the truth, not Boris Johnson tactics of doing things behind our backs before it is too late to have a say.

'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'

And I'm not alone.

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Sole Food

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 11 December 2020

The origin of being 'well-heeled' comes from cockfighting: a well-heeled cock wore sharp spurs which could cause big damage in a fight. Witness the Orange Cock Womble and his strutting, he wears only custom made Italian shoes as he's very insecure about his height and his foot size. His little size 8 feet ( you know what they say about the size of a mans foot and the size of his howsyourfather) are wedged inside size 12 black leather shoes with a 1 inch lift. He has to be the tallest man in the room and his shoes have to look proportional to his size. Pity the man who thinks with his Johnson - no not that one the other one that looks like a mushroom. But I digress. American frontier slang purloined 'well heeled' to mean being well-equipped, and so we now use it to mean having money as in;

'Cor look at that classy geezer, wearing fancy strides and Chukka boots. He's well heeled innit?'

I'm blessed with my Aunt Becky's feet. Size four, high instep and not so narrow as to look like a chicken and not so broad as to look like a camel, but just the right size for a woman of 5ft and shrinking. As I write I'm wearing yellow socks, left in the house by Ava who's 12, and salmon coloured trainers with double tied laces. The shoe rack in the kitchen sports muddy walking shoes, blue gardening clogs, furry slippers, wellington boots, flip flops and fancy grey suede boots I bought whilst filming in America. I wore them with a little lacy dress. Not so much mutton dressed as lamb more an old goat dressed as a kid.

It is true to say that as I've got older my feet are not the happy extremities they used to be. The high insteps pull on my tendons causing a numbing distress, relieved only by the old git massaging my feet in front of Corrie. One day without yoga and I feel like I've got corks jammed between my toes. There is an exercise that helps - picking up a 2B or not 2B pencil with the toes, rather like holding an HB under the breasts to determine the rate of sag, in my case I can manage a pencil case.

Most of the time I pad about barefooted preferring to feel rugs, flagstones and grass beneath my feet. A few months ago I had a new bathroom carpet fitted, a delicate grey, it changes shade depending on which way you stroke it, my feet sink into the luxurious pile making me aware of my first world sensibilities. Having a thick carpet in the washhouse is not on the top of everyone's list, but we have visitors who have earmarked the bathroom as their room of choice - it's warm and welcoming and the carpet feels like you're sinking into Dennis the cat's soft under belly .

But I love shoes, not in an Imelda Marcus kinda way but in an-overweight-'Z'lister-who-could-always-rely-on-her-feet-staying-the-same-size-whilst-her-waist-hips-bust and belly-oscillated-from-a-size-6-to-a-size-20-kinda-way. To be honest, having released several pounds I think my feet are smaller, although everything shrinks with age. Ask the 'oosbind.

I've got a drawer under the bed full of interesting flatties, including plimsolls, and shelves in the bedroom full of high heels, not to mention the cupboard in the attic with everything, from patent leather boots to my first proper pair of fashionable shoes which my mother bought in Watford when I was 13. They were a gift for getting into Watford School of Music. They're slim, blue canvassy things with an orange and yellow stripe, a pointed toe and a little block heel. They lace up over the top of the foot, they're 58-years-old and well trodden, they're jammed on a shelf with all sorts of other blue shoes.

I have red, pink, grey, black, green, gold and yellow shoes. I have red wedges with dangly strawberries near the big-toe peep-hole. I have mauve, suede, tasselled ankle boots and, red and gold sequinned boots I was given from the BBC wardrobe department (blimey thems were the days) from 'It's a Knockout.'

I've got bikers' boots, cowboy boots, and a pair of trendy boots I bought on the Kings Road from 'R Soles'. The shop is still there. I wore them home and the dawter stuck a sunflower sticker on the pointed toes. That was thirty years ago and that sticker is still stuck. Our local cobbler renewed the elastic sides so I can wear them with thick socks. Nice!

When I was ten, well heeled we were not, but I was taken to St. Albans for a new pair of school shoes. I opted for an orange flat leather shoe with a t-strap. I'm surprised I was allowed to have them. I would walk to school and when I arrived at my desk I would spit on my handkerchief ( we all had a cotton hanky then ) and wipe the soles of those precious shoes, thus preserving their newness. I spent the rest of the day in socks. Years later I was costume buying for a telly job in South Molton Street. There in the window of a fancy Bond Street shoe shop was a pair of orange patent leather shoes with a strap that buttoned on the side. Not a t-strap, I grant you, but they were a nod to my orange shoes of 1959. I hadn't realised that I'd been searching for those shoes for years. I've still got them - they sit next to a pair of orange brocade boots that would do well in a Restoration drama.

In my youth I would to go to jumble sales from Mill Hill to Boreham Wood, sorting through the trestle tables looking for treasure. I bought a pair of shiny black, round-toed shoes from the 20's. I wore them with sheer black seamed stockings. On the top floor of a church hall in Kentish Town our theatre group rehearsed our plays, we accumulated dresses, hats, bags and jewellery but I did a runner from the controlling director leaving my vintage shoes behind, those shoes were never to be seen again. I have a pair of bejewelled sling backs from the 60's, bought from a little boutique in Battersea square, and dainty character shoes from 'Freeds'. I would buy job lots of ballerina shoes to match my culottes - lime green, rusty brown, classic red - and wear them on teaching practice. My ensemble silenced the noisiest girls; in the class we spent half the lesson discussing the power of colour and co-ordination.

I don't know how many pairs of shoes I have and to be honest I don't know why I'm holding onto them. Age compromises the balance and wearing high heels now fucks the balls of my feet and I look like a u-bend. But getting rid of them would be kissing goodbye to my youth. Each set of stilettos tells a story and anyway, who knows when the next show will beckon and I have to be seen tripping the light fantastic in my brown sequinned platforms.

Letting go is essential; as my 'oosbind the pantomime dame would say, 'You can't have everything, I mean after all, where would you put it?' But letting go is a process ain't it?

I made a film for ITV on Feng Shui; we interviewed a writer who had shelves of books all piled up in her 'wealth area' and stacks of unnecessary paperwork cluttering up her 'career area'. She was so traumatised, as we boxed up the books, that we couldn't show the footage. It was just too harrowing. Then three weeks after the filming she contacted me to say her life had turned round and she had never felt better. For the first time in years money was rolling in.

Nice story, but letting go of stuff takes time and patience and being kind to yourself. Why would I want to keep five pairs of leather sandals I bought in Porta Pollenca in 1995? Why would I want to keep turquoise espadrilles, their wedged heels a recipe for arse-over-tittery. Why am I giving a home to red satin shoes with seven inch heels and bows and their jungle patterned kitten heeled companions.

I even have a pair of handmade baby blue patent leather 'fuck-me' shoes, with a heart engraved in the sole, made by an art student. I bought them from a sex shop in Soho. Why would I want to keep them? I'll tell you why - because I am not ready to give up the ghost, not yet. And, who knows, when Steven Spielberg comes a calling and asks me to play Cynthia Payne, the Madam of a suburban brothel, in his next movie, I'll have my own pair of Scooby-doos, and I'Il be able to put my best foot forward and kick arse.


Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.