Ashes to ashes

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 19 April 2021

I was thinking about funerals, what with the Queen's Escort and Helen McCrory, I was thinking how sombre and dignified the piper was as he played out the lament on his bagpipes. I was so shocked and saddened by the death of Ms M. that I felt the helplessness that we all feel in the face of death. There is nothing so absolute as the last sleep. It doesn't matter how far you run you can't outrun Lillith. And isn't it often the mundane, bagging up carrots, scrubbing the sink, that as we do life we remember that death, though inevitable, is utterly unavoidable.

We'd been on a new ramble, a chalky path through a field. Alex, a geography graduate from Oxford was marching her kids, Harry and Libby and their rescue greyhound Rooster, towards us. Alex informed us we were walking the wrong way to the Caff so she led us back through a kissing gate, down the road, up the hill past the old sandstone 130 million year old rocks, past refurbished stables, the local Brewery though a wooden gate and then into ancient, ancient woodland. White anemones and yellow Celandine hugged the path. Through a mini orchard, under a little railway arch, up a steep hill to Rooster's house where Alex pointed us round her garden, up another field, then onto a wide open meadow with white May blossom home to a herd of deer. Through another field past gnarly old trees with magical trunks out onto the road, into the sunshine, down past the old wild life rescue centre and right into the Caff in the park.

Tables laid out, people chatting, flowers in jugs and freshly baked scones. Wearing a black mask Jack brought us delectable coffee and planted a huge salty scone in front of us, offering cream and jam which we declined.

So today as the sun shone I still felt the melancholy that death leaves. As I reached the May blossom I started counting the funerals I had attended. Eighteen in total, although I've probably forgotten some. It occurred to me that over seventy years of living, my losses, though painful, were not excessive.

My father died aged 83. My mother outlived him by six years. His send off was farcical. He led a life of duplicity and chicanery that resulted in a handful of mourners turning up to the Crem in Luton. The right hand side of the chapel was full of the immediate Semitic family, his brothers and sisters and their sallow spouses.

The left hand side of the chapel was empty bar a handful of non-denominational bemoaners, the old git and me.

His secret second wife - I told you he was duplicitous - had chosen the service from the Christian handbook. Nobody on the right hand side had a clue as to what was going on and especially not Hymn No. 27, so we lefties made up for it by singing 'Amazing Grace' very loudly. Nobody organised a eulogy, nobody laid flowers, nobody exchanged condolences except three women from the bookmakers wearing green Ladbroke tabards. I was encouraged to get up on the raised stage to say at least something about the dearly departed. I have no memory of my spontaneous speech although I am told it was full of expletives and forgiveness. I have no memory of crying for him, although I did spend eleven hours at his bedside, as his face turned the colour of sour milk, stroking his hand and forgiving him and forgiving him and forgiving him.

My mothers funeral was in Brighton. She died alone in her room, in a little nursing home. Holding her morning cup of coffee she passed away with nobody but her nurse to witness her departure. I was working in Ibiza for 'The Groucho Club' when I got the call. Bernie Katz told me to go home so with the help of the other inmates I got back to Blighty to organise her funeral. A mystic once told me that for three days the veil is thinned between them and us, and so it was that for three days I felt the euphoria that my mother had gone to a better place. I was writing a comedy script at the time, including a funeral scene where the mourners covered the coffin in sunflowers. A top shot of luscious yellow offerings. I decided that life/death should follow art. People came from all over the place, down to the chapel in Brighton. My mother was given a rousing send off with a slide show, jokes, songs, Bruch's violin concerto and Stevie Wonder - single sun-flowers were laid lovingly on top of her casket - the scene had worked - and I cried and cried and cried.

When Bernie Katz died, he who ran the Groucho Club, he was given a surprising send off. Bernie, of the leopard skin or sequinned suits, a man of such generosity that I never, ever paid for anything when I went to the club. His funeral took over Soho. Mourners stood on every pavement round Soho Square clapping and honouring him by wearing leopard skin button holes. A coach and black horses, led the entourage to his final resting place. Back at the club drinks flowed. I cried hard for Bernie.

I also cried hard for my poet in Galway, although I didn't attend her funeral. I'd visited her in her last weeks alive, we reminisced, and said our farewells, her cool cheek is still stored in my muscle memory bank.

When my mentor Betty Marsden died I travelled to a church near her home in Kew. So many mourners turned up that people climbed up the wooden beams and hung from the wooden rafters, we all gathered on her houseboat drinking vodka at her round walnut table, the boat bobbing in the water, although it could have been the Bloody Mary's.

Ken Campbell, the genius behind so many performers, opted for a burial in a wood in Essex. His ecological coffin was drawn on a sledge pulled by his dogs, he was laid in the earth to the sound of a lone clarinetist. As in life, his death was madly theatrical.

My dear friend Sybil the Soothsayer said I should write about my own funeral. Well I want a lot of people there. I couldn't bare to go out to an empty auditorium. I want flowers and poems, I want young people and dogs, I want doughnuts at the chapel door and music from Ashkenazy tear jerkers to French Choral evening song, cheesy Rachmaninoff piano concertos, Bulgarian harmonies to very loud Dub with a ridiculously loud bass. I want people to cry - of course I do - but I also want somebody to tell jokes and for those willing in the congregation to drop their communal drawers and moon at the sky. Because when all is said and done everything will actually have been done and said, cos ain't that the Cosmic joke? Cos whatever we do, however we do it, it all ends with a final sigh, a tiny splutter and it's back to the stars we go.

I wish Phillip and Helen and all the others that have recently died, a peaceful journey and I wish you all a long life.

Locheim

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ubuntu

Posted by Jeni in | 2 April 2021

We lived in East London. Watney Street. Solander Gardens. I went to Cannon Barnet in Aldgate East. I was dark skinned and one of the many Jewish kids at the school.

We non C-of-E pupils skipped assembly and stood in separate dinner lines from the Gentiles. They had milky custard whilst ours was made from water so that the practicing Jews could eat Kosher and not mix milk with meat. Our form teacher was Miss Ploughman and I loved her. She wore smocks over her skirt and presided over us when we had our afternoon nap, on little camp beds, in the hall which always smelt of stale mince, mashed potatoes and cabbage. In 1953, aged four, I queued up with all the other infants for my Coronation silver spoon. I wish I still had it. It was wrapped in tissue paper and I bit on it thinking it was liquorice. I still don't know where that idea came from. That little girl lived in a world of chaotic imaginings, misunderstanding the status quo, making up her own wild stories, feeling like a - 'Nother' is what so-called minorities do don't they?

I was reprimanded for saying I could plait hair, when in fact I had no fucking idea what a plait was. I stood at the front of the class trying to get two clumps of hair to stay in tact - who knew it had to be divided into three - but I had eagerly offered myself up as a hairdresser because I had seen somebody make a plait in the playground, which was situated on the roof of the school surrounded by wire meshing to protect us from falling onto Commercial Street. I watched the plaiting and just knew I could do it. The teacher, not Miss Ploughman, accused me of lying and asked me to hold out my hand. The ruler came down with a nasty sting on my palm. I can remember the humiliation being far greater than the painful slap. It happened again after Friday sweets were handed out. I never got any. One Friday a creche of jelly babies landed on my desk. It occurred to me, years later, that the teacher had had a word with the class. 'Nother' felt that sting of humiliation bite again.

When we learnt about Jesus and the Church of England, I was intrigued by both, since neither Jesus nor England felt like they belonged to me, although Jesus was jewish, his dad was a carpenter and his mum looked decent enough. Our flat had a little brick wall at the end of the communal green. There's an old photograph of my brother standing in a semi circle with all the other kids on the estate, waiting to go on a day trip. I was ill, somewhere in the back of shot is my mother holding me, wrapped in a blanket. Ooops here comes 'Nother'.

When I was sent to the headmistress for banning a girl from a game on my last day at the school, the seeds of injustice were sown. The girl had bullied me for years so I stood my ground and kept her out of the circle. The headmistress called me into her office and told me I was mean and selfish, I never told anyone but a pattern was emerging. Even though I was within my rights to punish the bully I did not defend myself. I quietly took the punishment myself, which is why the story of Jesus appealed to me so much because he apparently took the blows even though he was, like me, just a well meaning Yid. So aged four I sat on that little brick wall outside the flat on Maundy Thursday, took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Good Friday until the sun went down, took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Easter Saturday until the sun went down. Took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Easter Sunday when finally my mother came out and asked me what I was doing. I told her that Jesus had died for us but not to worry because he would rise again after three days and walk amongst us. If I sat on that wall he would find his way to Whitechapel and would turn up and I was determined to be there when he did. We'd have a chat and I'd ask him what was it like being totally dead for three days.

He never came. I'm still waiting for him to walk amongst us. There are those that say he is always here, those who think he didn't exist, and those who couldn't give a fuck. Me, well like my four year old self I'm still sitting on the wall waiting for him to turn up. if only so he can make sense of all the nonsense around us.

I can't be the only one who is dismayed by Myanmar, horrified by police brutality, here and there, I can't be the only one who feels unmitigated sadness as tree after tree is being cut down for 5G, railway lines, property developments. I can't be the only one confused by Covid. I cannot be the only one sitting on the wall waiting.

So it's goodbye Easter, with not many chocolate eggs and definitely no lamb, and a lot of reading when I came across this;

An anthropologist showed a game to the children of an African tribe ... He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: The first child to reach the tree will get the basket. When he gave them the start signal, he was surprised that they were walking together, holding hands until they reached the tree and shared the fruit! When he asked them why you did that when every one of you could get the basket only for him! They answered with astonishment: Ubuntu. "That is, how can one of us be happy while the rest are miserable?" UBUNTU in their civilisation means: I AM BECAUSE WE ARE That tribe knows the secret of happiness that has been lost in all societies that transcend them and which consider themselves civilized societies ....... !!

Oi! Jesus, if you read my blog, come on mate we could all do with a bit of loving thy neighbour and a lorry load of communal responsibility, so if you can find your way - I'll be sitting on the wall outside the pub - just praying - sorry saying.

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Love Thy Residential Occupier

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 23 March 2021

My family are immigrants.

The old gits family are immigrants.

Most of my friends are from Irish, Indian, Caribbean or some other shipped-in stock.

Given that the earth is home to 7.674 billion people it wouldn't be surprising if all of us aren't related to me or to somebody who knows me or to somebody who is related to me and then some.

Out of 195 countries on earth I bet 195 of them have people who have come and gone and then tried to come back again. Conflict, sadly, seems to be part of our human condition. Even as I write 10 wars are being waged on our crippled planet with the USA, the UK, or Russia supplying all the weapons. Just a handful or arseholes sign the papers that release chaos, tear gas and high capacity magazines, which means that money can pass seamlessly from one bloody tyrant to another. The rest of us peaceful folk watch on as they squander our housekeeping. And now the twat that oozes out of No10 wants to increase our nuclear warheads.....

And in whose name are these weapons sold? Not in mine that's for sure.

There are 23 deserts on earth and survival in these hot regions is precarious. Given that Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tuscon, are desert towns let's remember who lays the water pipes, who keeps those desert cities habitable. It sure as hell ain't the likes of the Mr. & Mrs. Trumpington's. The survival of those hot, dusty cities relies on importing people and water. Why, the holiday destination of our nouveau riche is sun kissed Dubai which is predicated on slavery. Oh, how our lovely islanders enjoy their luxurious holidays on the Persian gulf without a thought for the little fuckers that built it. Other countries - India, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Nigeria , Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia and the Philippines - all keep their slaves nicely hidden. Ok, so I can't verify the numbers but I'm prepared to believe that our little globe is toppling under the weight of clandestine people mismanagement.

Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, all war ravaged cities, have made the UK more money than is countable. And so I ask, without wishing to sound disingenuous, what is all this money spent on, cos as sure as f*k it ain't on me; take a look at the potholes round my manor, they're deep enough to fish for halibut.

Out of 67 million UK citizens only 14% - 9.5 million people - are immigrants. And since London, with a population of 8.982 million has the most immigrants of all, it computes to only 1 million Johnny foreigners.

It is absurd to imagine that any country on earth does not have incomers and outgoers - that's what we nomadic humans do. It's what we've always done. If the watering hole is empty we pack up our bundles and set off to find another one. It is ridiculous to think that EVERY single country on this earth DOESN'T have a pile of people that WEREN'T born with a clear ancestral line. Immigration here began in the 19th century with arrivals from the British colonies. The overall foreign born population in Britain between 1851 and 1901, came from Eastern Europe and Russia, so blame my mob of hairy Yiddishers that brought fish and chips and anti semitism to your shores.

So enough already, and shut the fuck up about immigrants. We have a duty of care to those we have exiled from their own countries. We have a duty of conscience to help those children, young men and women and the old and infirm that our wicked fuckers have displaced. Taking away foreign aid, selling vicious weapons to the likes of Bashar al-Assad whose wife spends money at Harrods whilst her people burn, they need the back of their legs slapping. Enough already and shut the fuck up about immigrants, refugees and foreigners. For they are not the problem it's the self entitled fuckwits who are clinging to a stinking rotten system. My mob were chucked out of Bela Rus because they were Yids. The immigrants that are kissing the white Cliffs of Dover come from countries that we have flattened, whoever they are.

Am I saying anything that is new? Of course not. It's just that today we are witnessing more and more orphaned kids clinging to strangers, clinging to a belief that they will get a fine welcome when they arrive here in Blighty, instead of being treated like dogs. Would Mr and Mrs Holierthanthou put up with the conditions that real life human beings are subjected to?

The earth belongs to all of us - them, us, those over there and the funny looking lot from behind that tree. We are but custodians; the earth does not belong to a handful of indifferent bastards that fill their coffers from making land mines, buzz bombs and L129A1 sharpshooter rifles whilst the tousled haired tosspot orders more nuclear warheads.

Who the fuck can use them and where the fuck can they be used?

It does not make our lives any safer having a closet full of military hardware.

It does not make any sense sending rockets to Mars whilst we are pissing on our own land. It does not help one living thing from a bee to an adder, from an ostrich to an octopus to invest in deadly weaponry that serves no-one but the arms dealer. Only the coffers of the callous, dispassionate few can sleep at night whilst they make money out of the death, maiming and torture of other humans.

Am I saying anything new? Am I saying anything you don't know? For, today's news that, televisions and coffee machines are the most bought items in lockdown whilst alarm clocks and suit cases are out of fashion, comes as no surprise. For it stands to reason that going out out is no longer in in so whoever your neighbour is you'd better learn to live with them because as things appear we are stuck with each other wherever we come from.

"Make nice" - as my father used to say - be six weeks - as my father said. Be as innocent as a babe and share and care and SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT IMMIGRATION, because thems immigrants are not the problem, it's the selfish, petty little Hitlers that are the bastards in this scenario. So let's learn to live with those next door neighbours, whatever they speak because as Covid nibbles away at the corners of society you never know when you may need to borrow a cup of grace.

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What next eh?

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 22 March 2021

I sat in the garden, with Dennis the cat, my face to the sky like a sunflower, I ate a salad with fennel and my new best ingredient chile oil. The cottage is filled with Irish music, because however lethargic I am I cannot resist a little jig to a band of drummers and penny whistlers.

I drove out to the spice shop, the greengrocers and the chemist and bought everything from coriander to Nurofen. Home to the old git who was at his computer, the dawter and her illustrator, who were at their computers, then I changed from my figure hugging yoga ensemble into my trusty pj's.

Supper is being cooked by the artist, whilst the dawter is uploading little films for her recipe book.

I've been scouring the headlines to find something to write about, but I don't want to give any more space to Covid, or vaccines, to protests or Priti politics. I don't want to talk about 'Line of Duty' or why I couldn't give a tuppeny fuck about 'The Voice.' I'm uninspired by The Sturgeon saga, board shitless with the space race and utterly, utterly disillusioned with the Brexit bombshell that is waiting behind the hedge to pounce on us.

I cannot believe the shower of shite that has been unleashed by the myopic Members of Parliament, and I do mean members. We all know somebody who knows somebody who has been effected by our divorce from Europe. Customs chaos, the vicissitudes of our vistas, carne carnage, touring travesties, not to mention the feeling of isolation like methane, which is now hanging over us.

What did Farage want? What did Johnson unleash? Do they care? What once was a spontaneous decision to visit donkeys in Mijas, what once was a delicious treat to jump into an open topped car and drive to Carcasson to visit the ancient sites of the Cathars, what once took a sandwich and a bottle of water on a train ride into Paris, has turned into a fucking nightmare.

What with masks and lockdowns, curfews and fear, our world has been turned upside down. It feels like the end of life as we know it, and since ends are also beginnings, it feels like the beginning of something that is so foreign that who can even call it?

Reading peoples eyes, listening keenly because mouths are hidden, anxiety over bank balances and the knowledge that those in charge have still not sorted out the homeless, the soon to be homeless, the victims of cladding and the reprehensible treatment of care workers. There is a growling lament that is playing out in the wings.

I am at a loss as to what to write about, I want to bury my head in a pillow sprayed with sandalwood and lavender. I want to hurt shameless Etonians, I want to shame hurtful politicians who paddle their own canoes, I want to sink them. Were I younger I would be incandescent with rage, filled with a hot fury that my world is being trampled on and it's future ripped up.

I have a wonderful old friend who thinks I am angry. Well I was born into volcanic fury which was nurtured by injustice and a refusal to read the small print. Even though the devil is in the detail, the detail is on a par with the overtly obvious. I will leave the semantics to the pedants, the wordsmiths and energetic thinkers who will write the next chapter. Right now I am open mouthed at the effrontery of it all. I'm not looking at the detail now because it makes my heart bleed. All power to those who still have the fight in them, I trust that my ancient howl will re-emerge but right now I'm crouching behind the dustbins waiting.

'I am committed to looking reality in the face and speaking about it without pretence. It is because I reject lies and running away that I am accused of pessimism; but this rejection implies hope, the hope that truth may be of use. And this is a more optimistic attitude than the choice of indifference, ignorance or sham.' Simone de Beauvoir

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Dashing Away with a Smoothing Iron

Posted by Jeni in | 14 March 2021

Shoukei Matsumoto, a Buddhist monk at Komyoji Temple in Tokyo says, a clean house leads to a clean mind. 373 years earlier Sir Francis Bacon wrote 'In Advancement of Learning' that 'Cleanness of body was ever esteemed to proceed from a due reverence to God, to society, and to ourselves'. Since my mother thought that cleanliness was next to Godliness she scrubbed the hall weekly, and the Ewbank carpet sweeper was brought out before 'company' came.

Quentin Crisp's take on dust, "There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn't get any worse, has been a boon for the grubby.

Us female women have been inundated with advice on our gender and housework; "it gets in the way of creativity" and, "it is a great springboard for creativity". If your house is clean then you must be the dullest woman alive and, if your house is shiny then you will find time to write five shiny novels. Carol Shields wrote all her best selling books in between keeping her crib clean and putting her five children to bed. When one of my college friends visited me in my home she was flabbergasted that I did the washing, folded the washing, ironed the washing and then put it in piles to be put away. She had never credited me with anything domestic. "After all," she would say, "when do you ever see great women vacuuming?" She has a point; I cannot imagine Boudica, brush and pan in hand, sweeping round the chariots.

When I was famously busy I had cleaners and gardeners, I had Francis and Kenny who walked the dog and fried chips for the dawter. I had Ms O'kay who polished round the u-bend and shined the silver goblets. Now, what with Covid and age - a powerful combination - the phone not only does not ring but the funds that used to pay for a gardener and cleaner now go on necessities like food, electricity and the fucking council tax.

Ironing, however, serves many functions; you use up more calories pressing your necessaries than doing any other household task; ironing also serves as the perfect rhythmic backdrop to creative thinking. Repetitive rhythmic movements enable thoughts to come and go. Many a writer talks about having their greatest ideas over an ironing board. Although washing dishes does come in a close second.

As I come from a family of Russian immigrants plastic washing up bowls were never part of the kitchen inventory. Plates and cutlery, pots and pans were, and are, always scrubbed under hot running water. Nobody understands why I like washing up - it gives me space and time away from everyone else. My mother used her washing up time to clear her head and prepare herself for the next onslaught. I put on thick rubber gloves and turn the tap on until the water is steaming hot. The pleasure of instant gratification; what once was dirty is now clean, is a ritual I never get tired of. The dish washer is only used when there's more than four of us, which means at the moment it is redundant. Since there is now no disposable income housework falls onto my shoulders. It's not that the old git won't help; it's just that he can't, he has man eyes. He does not see what I see when I bend over in the bathroom. He does not care what's under the settee or behind the pressure cooker. He has no interest in polishing the heads of the buddhas on the mantle piece nor does he care that the rungs of the rocking chair are covered in dust. Like Quentin Crisp - who by the way hangs around the cottage since he modelled at St. Albans art school in the 60s when my brother drew him in his pouch -that's Quentin not my brother - Mr. Crisp is framed on the way to the attic, so the 'oosbind is in good company. What the eye doesn't see the heart cannot grieve over. It's not that the old git is slovenly it's just that he has MUCH better things to do like decanting his gin or sharpening his axe.

Since it's springtime in a minute I'm having my bi-annual clean. DVD's are boxed away, books are passed on and the settee is pulled forward. This year, hidden in the cobwebs behind the three seater were two trays, two duvets wrapped up in bags ( for remote recording sessions) a reflexology standing board, a Gym stick, a yoga mat and bolster pillow, a contraption for attaching to the door so that sit-ups can be practiced solo and a Canadian quilt made 33 years ago for the dawter by Soryl, a phenomenal Canadian quilt maker. The quilt went into the wash, everything was redistributed round the house and hidden in the dust was a dead shrew, as stiff as a board. The man of the house chucked it into the bin without the tiniest of complaints. The room now feels bigger and brighter and has space to be filled up with more detritus till next year.

All our laundry is done downstairs in the cellar. The washing machine, tumble drier, freezer, micro wave and ironing board sit on offcuts from the bathroom carpet. So it's all ad-hoc flooring but comfortable. The first time I asked to do the ironing as a teenager I was given tea towels to tackle. Looking at my deliciously long, painted finger nails as I smoothed out the dish cloths, my mother accused me of being like Aunty Becky. My great aunt had perfectly manicured nails, was unmarried on account of sharing her passions with a married geezer called Mr. White, had the freedom of being unfettered, uncluttered and untidy. My mother was jealous of Becky's unadulterated adultery. I had grown my nails as a protest, having always kept them short for my piano playing, I now grew them and painted them a lurid silvery pink. It was bliss giving a lacquered middle finger.

Ironing now is contemplative. The radio comes on automatically when I turn the iron on - they share an adapter - and the routine is thus; socks are paired and thrown into an empty washing basket. Under crackers are separated and ironed and placed neatly on the socks. I know ironing underwear is frowned upon for time wasting but my Nan and my mother both pressed their high waisted briefs and his Y-fronts. 'Keeps the bugs away," they would say. A very heavy flat iron, heated over a gas flame, was picked up using a small pad, then the very heavy, searingly hot iron was navigated around the garments.

Shirts are left till last. Ironing, like preparing Brussel sprouts, is learnt at your mother's knee by osmosis. First the collar, then the sleeves, then the cuffs, then the right hand side buttons on the inside, then the left hand side seams on the inside, then the back and then, pulling the top of the shirt over the end of the ironing board, the two shoulder panels. My 'oosbind couldn't care less whether the final pressing is creased or not; my father, on the other hand, insisted that his shirts were pristine, one crinkle in the collar resulted in a back hander.

We've come a long way, although some would say not for enough, with our housewifery. I only do what I want to do when I want to do it. Nobody demands that I starch their sheets or boil their flannels. I am my own taskmistress. So, as women demand their right to walk safely though public thoroughfares, sit safely on night time buses and run gaily through parks I assert that it's a woman's right to steam her thongs should she want to.....

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'Orrible 'istory

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 11 March 2021

Meghan and Harry? I really can't be arsed. She said what she said, whether it was fake, or true or just a brilliant acting job, she said what she said. Whether it was learnt, remembered or improvised she had her say. Harry stood by her, sat by her, holding her hand whilst she said what she said and then he said what he said. Whether he's weak, calculating or just plain Royal, he talked with Queen Winfrey and told us how he nearly felt. We watched in our millions and we wondered whether 'THE CROWN' drama was as accurate as it had appeared. We made our judgement and Piers Morgan lost his job over it.

Social media has been creaming its knickers, look at;

Her dress - look a birds pooped on it, and she looks like Wallace Simpson.

Her hair - look how insecure she is moving her bangs about

Her jewellery - she's worth millions

Her rescue hens - as if she'd finger through the chicken shit with her own bare hands.

And over her accusations of racism in 'The Firm'.

"So what that she's coloured." said a friend of mine. 'Coloured' in 2021 from an intelligent woman who still uses Colonial language.

Social media has jumped on Harry;

Is he Charles son?

Does he love his mama?

Is he Diana's off cut?

Watching the ex-royal couple play in the Malibu sand do we even give a fuck?

Well, apparently we do, otherwise I wouldn't be wanking on about it. It seems that everybody is talking about what everybody already knew that The Royal family is an institution; a band of such wealthy individuals that only Lillibet and her closest allies know what's in their vaults.

They head up our nation. Our first family, and they stick together, whether it's Fascism, Racism, or Woking Pizzarism, they stick together like the Cosa Nostra. And lets be honest, there are loads of them and loads of them that have friends in high places, and those of them in the high places are happily supporting 'The Firm' so that the rest of us sit with our chin in our hands and natter and twitter and take our eyes off the ball.

Not that I have anything against the Monarchical clan, but you would agree that they are set apart and out of touch; huddled away in their castles, released to do their charitable duties and lest we forget they represent us as a nation. There are those in the UK who look to the Windsors for guidance, for a reason to feel entitled under their entitlement; sleeping outside Buckingham Palace if only to get a tiny glimpse of their Royal arses. Wars are fought for them, flunkies are hired for them, magazines are printed about them. But as the economy tanks, and the NHS sways from side to side like an unclad tower block, as millions of pounds are squandered on an inner coterie of Tory investors who secretly sell off boxes of unused medical supplies, as Brexit insidiously dismantles our European links, as Nigel Farage slopes back into his cave, as a constitutional argy bargy grips our headlines should we really be giving a flying fuck?

Well whether we like it or not the rug has been lifted and the moths and wood lice are escaping. The American actress with a tote bag full of accusations has shaken up a nation - mental health, lack of compassion, dysfunctionality. The Queen's subjects have complained in their thousands about a telly presenter, but as yet, haven't shouted loudly enough about the hike in their Council Tax or the use of their funds to cover a national debt that is piling up. The Sussexes, whether it was intentional or not, have inadvertently made us all give a fuck.

It's not about whether we like Harry and his missus, it's not about whether we like Piers Morgan, it doesn't matter whether we think the Queens is sweet and, at 96, is still doing her duty on behalf of us. It's all about, 'where do we fit into this royal rigmarole'? They head up a pecking order of such historic weight that we turn a blind eye when they cover up for each other, because we are the untermenches, too busy shovelling shit on their behalf.

So what if Betty Windsor strips her sons of titles, cars, land; so what if she waggles her royal digit in admonishment, those sons of the Crown, get away with murder. So what if our Head of State has to confer with the Government, it's Her Majesties Government and whoever has the final word, we still shuffle around doffing our caps to a family that wouldn't know the price of a tomato if it were thrown at them, or the smell of sweat, or how to do their own buttons up if it weren't for the likes of the button-uppers they employ.

So, whether I give a rats arse or not if Kate-to-be-queen wears her Zara dress for the fourteenth time, or whether Camilla is menopausal, all this has made me wonder whether I am being played. Those toffs in their side rooms who bow and scrape, who curtsy and grovel; those servants of the Crown who write rules, rewrite rules and snivel as they serve them, are part of a pyramid of power. As they prop up the status quo then travel back to the home counties their Sherry awaiting, remember it is a game of us and them or them and us. For make no mistake our class system has been prodded in the ribs by an American upstart with royal pretensions who now mixes her African American blood, with a dash of white European blood and now a vial full of the vital liquid which is coloured blue. So if the Senior Windsors do their duty then be rest assured they expect us to do ours, but what precisely is it?

What is our role anymore, us little people at the bottom of the pile? What is our purpose? Whatever it is let us remember, as we are buried under a mound of shit, to keep our mouths tightly shut and try not to swallow any of it.

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Desert Island Playlist.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 4 March 2021

Even people who don't listen to BBC Radio 4 know about 'Desert Island Discs'. Eleven o'clock of a Sunday. After the 'Archers' and before something else. Every Sunday at 11.45 I get a phone call from a woman living in Goudhurst, then I get a call from a woman living in Medway. We pick apart the contributor, discuss their choice of records/discs and then decide whether they were entertaining, boring or deeply offensive. To date Helen McCrory has been top of our list. But there have been loads who have prompted sighs over the sink, or even a grumble of irritation. Dame Floella Benjamin prompted a deeply intense discussion on entitlement, Colonialism and Play School.

When Sophia Loren was on each piece of music was more gut wrenching than the last. I loved it and her. She set me thinking. I cannot be the only person who has wondered about their eight recordings were they to be chosen for solitary confinement. When once it was a rare honour to be dumped on Roy Plumley's strange little island, now we have extraordinary castaways from all over everywhere interviewed by Miss Lauren Laverne.

Since the show started in 1942, 3,227 castaways have been tossed onto Aunty Beebs' sleepy lagoon. Of course we assume they all got rescued, although the old git is convinced they are hiding in the palm trees or sheltering in caves. But whilst I haven't heard all of the programmes I have heard many hosted by the resplendent Michael Parkinson, the profoundly poash Sue Lawley, the charismatic Kirsty Young and now the fragrant Lauren L.

When the astronaut Tim Peake revealed his choice of music to accompany him on the empty atoll I realised what a total fucking musical snob I was/am. Not that I've got anything against 'Aerosmith' or 'Monty Python', but I wanted the only British geezer to be floating around in space, to have perhaps a more reflective choice. Coming as I do from the Ashkenazy tribe which is all doom, gloom and culture, I was brought up on Rachmaninoff, Verdi, and a heavy dose of Bruch's violins. If my mother wasn't sobbing into her apron then the music was deemed shallow and colourless. So bearing in mind I've only got eight discs and that I've been drowned in music since birth leaving stuff out is harder than putting stuff in. But here goes:

I would take one of my dawters songs, so I could hear her lovely voice. Of course it would make me cry but I told you I am all doom and gloom and if nows not the time for indulging the Jewish Mother then when is?

I started learning the piano aged five, then continued to study classical music until I was seventeen. So my second choice for the islet would be Jaques Loussier's version of 'Gymnopedie' by Sartie. If only to piss off Miss Spottiswood, my purist piano teacher, who thought that adulterated, jazzy music of any kind was a crime against humanity.

I'd take the Chilean protest song 'El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido' , to remind me of my many youthful years fighting to change the world with song, political theatre and interpretive dance. How naive I was. Those South Americans would make me howl but I could march round the Island still believing that people united will never be defeated.

For twenty eight years I listened to music with a classical ear, then into my life walked the Northern Git who played guitar, bass and drums and taught me to listen to a song from the bass line up and so Steely Dan's 'Kid Charlemaine' would be wailing out into the palms reminding me of my family's ability to sing the sublime guitar solo in unison.

And where would I be without Stevie Wonder. It would have to be 'I'll be loving you Always' because that is what the 'oosbind melted my heart to and cos it's over seven minutes long and because Stevie has been the backdrop to our lives for over forty years, why even as the mourners laid sunflowers on my mothers casket Mr. Wonder sung her over to the other side.

I would take Bob James 'Terpsichore' - dinner jazz - because it's one of our go to albums when we sit down to eat and because it has become our comfort blanket when things get sticky. During the pandemic Bob has been played relentlessly.

I would take Chopin's 'First Ballade' because I played it and so did Mr. Rangely on the school halls piano, and because Mr. R changed my life by getting me to drama school, and because it was played when I visited my first acupuncturist who got me off drugs in the 70's, and because when we ran out of money in Valldemossa, Majorca, instead of going into Chopin's museum we stood underneath an open window and listened to a pianist playing on Chopin's very own piano - so good old Freddie Chopin would have to accompany me to my archipelago.

Number six would be the overture to 'Tannhauser', I know he had questionable politics but what better way to get rid of all that frustration whilst waiting for your lift home than belting out a bit of Wagner, I told you I was a snob.

The criteria for picking the music is different for all us castaways. All my musical choices are about family and me, so here's one that's work related. I used Edmundo Ross's 'Moulin Rouge' on my radio show - is there anything better than dancing to a latin beat, whilst wearing a homemade grass skirt accompanied by a band of swinging musicians shaking their maracas.

But my final choice would have to be Bach. J.S. and all six of his Brandenburg concertos, not one but all six of them. I'll plead with Ms Laverne and call her a mealy mouthed meany if she doesn't let me take them all.

So which one disc would I save from the salty waves? Well it would have to be Stevie because however much of a snob I am none of those classical dudes know how to rub my feet, clean my windows or generally make my life worth living, so the old git wins hands down every time.

They'd give me the Bible, but I may ask to change it for 'The Tripitaka' the earliest collection of Buddhist teachings, they'll give me Shakespeare which would take me an eternity to get through, and my book of choice would be a colouring book of a map of the stars so I could lie on my back and work out the constellations. My luxury would have to be an endless supply of paper and colourful pens so I could scribble and draw, dribble and weep, because however lovely the island may be, I would be totally useless without him and her and all of the others that I love in my life.

This coming Sunday actor Mark strong is sharing the soundtrack to his life, he was born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia to an Austrian mother and an Italian father. I'll be listening in the kitchen, cup of coffee in hand, three dates for sweetness and a big box of tissues at the ready, because with that heritage I have high hopes.

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House Guests

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 17 February 2021

Who can forget their first ever saucer with a piece of paper sprinkled over with mustard and cress seeds? The excitement as the little green shoots emerged, then the sheer pleasure of eating those newly sprouted leaves with a cut up hardboiled egg on a mound of cold butter that tore holes in a slice of thin white bread. Lurpak spreadable didn't exist then.

I came from a family of horticultural experimenters. Every window sill was filled with small pots of wonderment. My mother planted everything from tomato seeds, straight out of the tomato, avocado stones, the tops of pineapples and lemon pips. Her grandawter has inherited her green fingers. Whilst Covid is ravaging she has set up a mini Kew garden in her bedroom.

Two Cacti, a wilting Monstera, a Rubber plant which used to be mine, a Yucca which used to be mine, a bushy Ivy, various un-named species, a lemon tree that she says is a thirsty bitch, and cuttings from whatever she can lay her hands on.

I too have greeny type fingers which I have put to use over the years. My first attic was in Putney. A record player, books and a baby rubber tree accompanied me. I bought a little bottle of leaf shine and stroked the leaves whilst listening to James Taylor and dreaming of stardom. When I toured abroad the plants would go back to my parents home where my mother laid hands on them.

Throughout my peripatetic years plants always accompanied me along with clothes, cooking utensils and candelabras. Hiring vans to transport my personal effects as well as a harmonium, three tons of books and my collection of houseplants was a regular occurrence. Accommodation was easier to come by then. But it occurs to me that the dawters' rubber tree must be nearly fifty years old. She tames her plants way better than I.

In the spring of 1970 I worked for a bit in Dudu's, a clothing boutique next to Peter Jones in Swiss Cottage. I got bored folding coco coloured tee shirts, and left soon after visiting a customer who lived down the road. She was a Native American clairvoyant who had an enormous orange tree growing in her window. It was the first time I had seen real oranges dangling on a real tree in front of my very eyes. She told me to leave Dudu and pursue a career in the arts. Which of course I did, far be it from me not to listen to a sooth-saying Sioux see-er.

I invested in the plants of the time. I had the ubiquitous chlorophytum comosum, otherwise know as the Spider Plant which everybody displayed in the 70's. I moved in with an American photographer who had lied about her age. We lived in a rented house in Queen's Crescent, North London, on the 24 bus route and round the corner from Hampstead Heath. I slept on a divan on the ground floor. and watered my plants daily. With my first pay cheque from the BBC I invested in an innovative stereo system, the speakers flanked by two spider plants that stood on the top shelves in my extended bedroom. Their spidery leaves cascading over the works of the likes of Oscar Wilde, Simone De Beauvoir and Betty Friedan's 'Feminist Mystique' - why there's even a photograph of Betty in her youth, posing next to, what I suspect, is a Ficus Benjamina.

Whilst on tour in Hull, I had a phone call from my housemate. We had been burgled. The police were adamant that losing my music system and my pulverised spider plants was better than losing my life which is what would have happened had I been home. The thieves had dived onto the divan and beaten the living daylights out of the scatter cushions thinking they were me. That rubber plant survived.

After falling backwards into the arms of a group of itinerant actors and meeting the Thespian husband, the old git and I set up home in Wapping - the rubber plant retrieved from Boreham Wood stood by the window overlooking the River Thames.

With time came money and our move out of London in 1984. My friend's mother was one of the first female voices to be heard on the BBC's home service. As well as her mellifluous voice Margaret was a prolific gardener. A cutting was taken from her Begonia Rex. That one cutting now has more offshoots than Monty Don's publications. There's one on the sitting room window sill, one on the kitchen window sill, one in the dawters bedroom, ( beautifully trained) a fantastic specimen in the attic, that drips pink jewelled flowers every year and several cuttings that I have sent through the post to a host of gardeners who have propagated it even more. Margaret's legacy lives on through Brexit, Covid and Gardeners Question Time.

The only real arguments I have with the old bastard is when he gets scissor happy and prunes. He destroyed a Passion flower, that had been nurtured for fifteen years, he cut away my bower of dog roses, and the garden now has three apple trees that look like they have been amputated by a sociopathic butcher. He says he's breathing life back into them.

During my Battersea period I visited my Swedish acupuncturist near Wandsworth common. Her flat, a symphony of beige and natural coconut fibre, is adorned with a few orchids and an Aloe Vera which she keeps in her Scandinavian bedroom. She gave me a cutting, years ago, which now stands in the kitchen window all mighty and plump. If I need to calm down sunburn I break off a stem and slather the aloe on my skin, when I remember.

The last influx of indoor greenery happened in 2012. Apart from the Olympics the other momentous occasion in that year was the death of my mother. We gave her clothes away to the appropriate charities, her furniture to the appropriate house clearers and I rescued some of her plants; a flourishing money plant, a delicious succulent which has been propagated and loved. Unfortunately three little versions of the money spinner were trashed by the weather, so I will pinch off some little shoots and carry on her legacy. The big Money Plant stands in the attic looking in the right direction according to Feng Shui. I also rescued my mother's 'mother-in-law's tongue' which I gave to the 'oosbind to tend in the studio. The old bugger was far too busy hacking away at the creeping hydrangea when I found the Dracaena trifasciata standing outside the studio door wilted and swollen with rain. I shouted that he had let my mother be pissed on from a great height.

I took the ailing plant into the house, talked to it, dried it out and before you could say, "where has nine fucking years gone?" that mother-in-law's tongue is packed into a huge flowerpot and shoots it's variegated leaves up to the sky. It spent some of last summer outside. Then a few months ago I brought it in and put it on the same window sill as the money plant.

Yesterday I went upstairs to get new laundry form the airing cupboard. I looked and looked again, a double take of horror! Around the flower pot lay tiny pellets of mother-in-law's tongue. I called up the 'oosbind who climbed the stairs quicker than Sherpa Tensing ascending the Himalayas. Being too squeamish to look in the pot I pointed the 'Grim Reaper' at the Dracaena trifasciata. He carried the heavy pot down two flights of stairs and into the front garden. It was then that we noticed each and every tongue of that mother had been nibbled. Chunks had been chewed away. The old git turned the pot upside down and found two beetles and some wood lice. My mothers tongues had been feeding a colony of hungry crustaceans. The dawter, sensitive to my distress, carried the pot through the house to the bench outside the kitchen, standing on Dennis the cat (who screamed) and repotted that beautiful specimen. She left out one clump which is now in a vase of water waiting to throw out roots. My mother lives on.

For isn't that what plants do, carry on regardless with the help of us humans?

So as time and tide await no fucker, I recently read that academics at an Australian university have told staff to stop using the words mother and father in favour of terms like gestational parent and non-birthing parent in order to deliver gender-inclusive education.

What will become of us and my gestational parents'-in-laws tongues?

I'm all for being woke, but FFS......

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