Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 28 June 2020

Ta da today I bring you EUDAEMONIA.

Yup I hadn't heard of it either.

Eudaemonia is a Greek word. It translates as happiness or welfare; or human flourishing, or prosperity and even blessedness.

So why do I bring you Eudaemonia at 3.18 a.m. on a windy night - well I bring you a bit of Grecian joy because I watched the last three episodes of 'Tiger King' which triggered my insomnia and because the latest psychology now knows that there is some kind of science in the making of us happy.

We've all heard of being in the flow and altruistic actions that give life meaning, like shopping for your elderly neighbour, or picking up litter, and since we all aspire to living our best life, I decided to watch a Ted talk. I sat down with a cup of newly ground coffee at the kitchen table, having boiled a pan of beetroots and whizzed up some peppery hummus from cannelloni beans, I slurped the coffee whilst enjoying an American professor, who gave a slide show about how to deal with misery when up came the word Eudaemonia, which sounds like a fancy perfume from Guerlain or the latest offering from Enya.

Anyway there I was listening to this fascinating lecture by the yank in baggy trousers and it set me to wondering just how happy was I? I did a test to find out; firstly I had to acquaint myself with my signature strengths -24 questions resulting in 24 strengths in descending order which would indicate my calling. Find a job which covers my first three strengths and that would lead to some kind of probable happiness. My 24th was Prudence, but my top three were;




The questionnaire asked questions like forgiving and forgetting, finishing tasks and treating people equally. Well I mulled over what kind of job would suit my top three strengths and decided being a nun was one, being a police chief a la Cressida Dicks was another or being a midwife would all be suitable, and then I thought actually being what I do is the very thing for me. And then I thought, apart from random acts of kindness, like giving a tenner to the geezer who sits on a sleeping bag outside Sainsbury's, all my honest acts have always resulted in me getting the elbow.

I breast fed the dawter on air - got the sack.

I declared that I was bored shitless on an LWT programme - got the sack.

I bemoaned that a BBC series I was travelling round the country for was soooooo fatuous - got the sack.

And so it went on, refusing to tell lies on live telly always got me the sack.

Standing up for 29 young colleagues when they all got fired contributed to me getting the proverbial.

So honesty has not always been the best policy, although you would probably say what else could I have done, and you would probably be right.

Kindness is not the most obvious attribute in this business either. I have been the recipient of acts of Random Unkindness from a female presenter, who shall remain nameless, who though sitting not a gnats breath away from me turned her back on me, ignored me in a mini van on the way to the Olympic stadium and talked over my head whilst sitting in the next seat to me in the Theatre. The male presenter, who shall remain nameless, kindly removed me from a show on the morning of transmission, and a leading BBC boss who ever so kindly told the producers, who had fought for me for three months, that I was too rich meat for the BBC. Jimmy Savile was on air at the time.....

And as for Love, not always the easiest thing to practice when you are working with a pile of self serving, inglorious bastards.

However, this is not a whinge fest for whilst I have been in the firing line for my trio of psychological parts, they have also stood me in good stead for nearly 50 years in the business. And now that the phone is dead, the emails have dried up, and the voice-overs are thinning like the old gits pate, as theatres close their curtains, and concert halls shut their doors, as my industry folds its arms and crosses it's legs in the chilly foyer of lock-down, I will use my skills to survive the moment.

Magnesium, zinc and niacin help, Alan Bennett is a positive tonic, weeding through the onions is not 'alf bad, meditating with Deepac fills the Eudaemonic glass, watching Ted talks, listening to my music, the dawters music even the 'oosbind's choices feed the soul. Buying grapes for the neighbours and sweeping their path, practicing yoga and bicycling in front of Andrew Marr whilst shouting at Priti Patel is a marvellous de-stressor. For make no mistake this lock down is taking its toll. Are we at the end of the first wave, in the beginning of the second wave, waiting for the third wave whilst waving goodbye to Europe, The NHS, and Democracy? Are we witnessing the downfall of the orange cock-womble? Will we recognise the new normal, old normal, near normal? Will litter louts ever learn to recycle their rubbish? Will corruption stop? Will The Cum be removed from Downing Street? Will the Queen survive another anus horribilis? Will we get a new series of 'Would I lie to You' or shall we forever be watching repeats from Dave.....

The new psychology says we must live in the moment. This moment, not what has been or what is to become, just live in the now and then EUDAEMONIA can be yours, come on you've got nothing to lose but your misery!

loipon aft to simeioma kalinychta

So on that note goodnight.

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Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 19 June 2020

Whitney wore 'em, Ms Garland wore 'em, even Sir Elton of the John wore 'em, and me well I not only wore em' I helped name a theatre group after them.

It all began back in 16something or other when a 'cheap coarse, thick, cotton cloth - often coloured blue' - was created in Dongri, a dockside region in good old Bombay. The Hindi name for this cloth was Dungri. Anybody who wasn't anybody wore it, in fact anyone who needed clothes for hard labour embraced the fashion. Then along came the industrious British entrepreneurs who, with their finger on their noses, tapped knowingly into the smell of profit, and before you could say Mahatma Ghandolph they brought a load of Dungri over to Blighty where the impoverished sewed cheap clothes for the impoverished. Why even over in The ol US of A, braves, naves and slaves began wearing this utilitarian garment which we Englishers had now renamed 'dungaree'.

I came across my first pair of dungarees in a hardware shop in Whitechapel. Always the preferred choice of outfit, since they required only one other item of clothing a t-shirt, ideal clobber for shlepping in a stage set, setting up a stage set, performing on the stage set, taking down the stage set, travelling to the next gig putting up the same stage set, performing to an audience of howling miners, ship builders, dockers or steel workers, then taking down the set, loading the set into the van and off to the Watford Gap. To be fair the fellers did most of the lifting I just hung around in my dungarees, puffing on a Gaulois and looking moody.

One drunken night ( why do they always have to be drunken nights, because my friends, light bulb ideas never happen on sober nights ) in 'The Lord Palmerston Pub' in Tufnel Park, (remember pubs....ah! them's were the days...) four of us, three men and me, decided on calling our latest touring band of vagabonds 'BELT AND BRACES'. I was indeed wearing the very emblem of our enterprise.

So I've worn dungarees since 1973. I purchased them from hardware shops for 9.99p. Then in 'Baldock's in Tunbridge Wells for 19 pounds and 99p. Now I buy them from 'Screwfix', or 'Dirty Harry's' in Brighton - where they cost a whopping 30 quid. Sometimes I buy them off the internet, in fact I've just bought two pairs for a tenner each that make me look like Luby Loo, I also have a brown Dungri, with a square neck that I'm told is just my colour.

I've had several run-ins over my choice of outerwear. From TV-am to ITV, from the BBC to UK TV Food. I was told they weren't sexy, appropriate, girly or classy enough. I was told by an engaging male boss at ITV that the men who watched my gardening programme didn't find me sexy. My agent, at the time, attended the meeting, offered to come shopping with me, I told the bosses that the men who didn't fancy me couldn't get it up, and whilst walking to Waterloo East Station I sacked my agent. The dungarees stayed, as did I, for a second series.

When I wore a leather jacket over my fancy dungarees on TV-am I was told that it was redolent of an attitude of arrogance and defiance, they promptly sacked me, I sued and won. The dungarees lived on.

Then whilst filming at 'The Inn in Little Washington', dungarees came into their own. A double five star establishment with food to die for and dungarees to dye for I fell in love with their kitchen attire. 'The Inn' rescued Dalmatians. The head chef wore dungarees with a dalmation pattern. The sous chef, the front of house, the washer-uppers all wore the same black and white belt and braces, I bought two pairs from the onsite shop.

I still wear them even though they are twenty odd years old. I've never walked a road without somebody shouting 'Oy Jen, love your dungarees, where didya get 'em'. I point to the label on the thigh which says 'The Inn at Little Washington' and if I can be bothered I tell them the story of the male Dalmatian who sits in the entrance hall to the right-hand-side of the door. The dog wears a bow tie. The bitch sits to the left of the door, and she wears a pearl necklace. Their personal walker, to the best of my knowledge, also has a pair of these wonderfully chic dungars.

So June, in answer to your question where do I get my dungarees from, anywhere I can. The cheaper the better. The more pockets the better. The bigger the better. Shakeel, my wonderful dressmaking friend has made me a pair in fancy smoky grey material with chains, and a blue velvet pair with jewelled straps, I look like a builder in drag.

I have white ones, blue ones, denim ones, calico ones and now two Andy Pandy pairs with stripes. I go out wearing nothing but my trainers, a t-shirt and my chosen Dungars. Mobile phone and cheque card in the front pocket and that's your lot, you could say a woman of power with no dress sense, or you could say an independent woman who doesn't give a shit.

I have a photograph on the piano of me and the old git. He's wearing a leather jacket and sporting dark glasses and long hair and me, scowling, wearing a striped t-shirt and my trusty dungarees, it was taken in Brighton in 1978. I managed to find an identical pair in Bury St. Edmunds years later. I've worn them for so long they are now distressed. The straps fraying and the colour totally faded but I still get stopped regularly by young hipsters who went to know where I bought them.

I've remained constant to my dungarees for over fifty years. Fashions come and fashions go and now in 2020, when know one can see me and I couldn't care less if they did, I am considered the height of fashion.

Oh dungarees my dungarees

I love you more than gold

I wear you when its sweltering

And I wear you when its cold.

I wear you in the country

I wear you on the block

AndeventhoughtheoldgitthinksIlooklikeanoldbagandwishesIwouldwearsomethingage appropriate

I think you're still shit hot.

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To Hygga or not to Hygga

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 10 June 2020

Seventy eight days ago I was celebrating my birthday on the first day of lock down.

I - with the help of the old git who hobbled around calling the shots and hammering - furnished the new shed, I also reorganised my kitchen cupboards, weeded the Stromboli roses, seeded the potatoes, bought a box of masks, ground up endless coffee beans, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, aniseed seeds. I've bought copious amounts of - plant milk, washing up liquid, sprouted bread, dungarees, olive oil, blue filter glasses, vegan cheese (packed with wonderful little freezing bags), tomato plants, geranium plugs, hampers of fruit, industrial boxes of kettle crisps and Bee Venom Cream With Hyaluronic Acid - all on line.

I've watched the BBC, ITV and Channel Four news bulletins and counted the cost of our weedy government and their dealing with the virus; watched CNN and Sky to see just how the orange wank-biscuit ( courtesy of Gina Yashere) has been fucking up America. I've argued with dear old friends about schools opening, argued with dear old friends about whether watching anything at all on the state of our Union is of any use to the parasympathetic nervous system, argued with the old git about whether the 45th moron should be slowly poisoned or meet his maker with just one perfectly aimed bullet to the brain. I've watched gut wrenching films of tiny children dying from starvation in India, refugees ailing, I've watched despicable footage of police brutality, and only last night watched, open mouthed, as the Oxford peeps turned out to topple Cecil. It has been a time of tumult and excoriating pain. A time when I count my family and friends, daily, and make sure they are all safe, a time of weight gain, pain gain and will we ever get to Spain again in the rain again....Shut up!

Now, to set the scene, our sitting room apart from books and Dvd's and Cd's and more books, is a fireplace, a television, two armchairs and a big yellow settee with an expensive red and yellow throw over it. Lock down has brought the old git and I together in a rare pairing - holding hands, not quite canoodling but pretty damn close - whilst watching Michael Jordan on Netflix, Corrie on ITV, and the Wednesday night Aunty Beeb indulgence of 'The Repair Shop' and 'The Great British Sewing Bee'.

It was whilst watching Will on 'The Repair Shop' fixing a spinning wheel from the Shetlands that we learnt a new word, pertinent because a walk down the end of our road finds a flock of sheep in our neighbours field. The dawter has named one cheeky chappie Freddo, he has a black mole in his right ear, the softest of lambs coats, a brother or sister, we cant tell which, and a doting mother with a massive woolly fleece. Freddo trots over to the fence, shoves his velvety face through a fence hole and we tickle and stroke him, feed him grass and let him breathe his soft lamby breathe on us. The wire fence, above the wooden bit, is full of wool off the back of the flock. Now, in Shetland they collect the fence wool take it back to their spinning wimmin who industriously turn it into Shetland thingies. So, whilst holding hands and nibbling on a date, the 'oosbind and I were delighted to learn that The Shetlanders call those handfuls of left over wool HENTILAGETS. Ain't it a delicious name for left over tufty bits

If you listen to the voice on the internet saying HENTILAGET, it's as soft as a pullover with a little upward inflection at the end which in one second transports you to Quarff or Ollerberry.

'Hentilaget' got me thinking that there are very many words that describe things in one utterance like,


which means 'The law for the delegation of monitoring of beef labelling.' Always good to know when you're out and about in Lower Saxony or Westphalia delegating bull-shit.

P'raps later on in the year, you may find yourself in Iceland, and travelling North. Now should you be looking for the key ring to the tool work shed in the road works on the mountain road in Vaolaheioi, there is one Icelandic word which will help locate that key ring to the tool work shed in the road works on the mountain road in Vaolaheioi. Now, hear me out, Iceland is a small country full of mountain roads. You may well find that you really do need to find the key ring to the tool shed on that mountain road to Vaolaheioi, so instead of panicking all you need do is shout out,


and every Icelander, including Bjork, will know that you're looking for the key ring to the tool work shed in the road works on the mountain road in Vaolaheioi, and, in an 'ogenblick', will down tools and before you can say, 'Bob's your uncle', or in the local vernacular 'Bubbi fraendi pbinn', I bet you that key ring will turn up.

Now of course many of us will be sunshine seeking when the lock is sprung and we'll have the British summer we normally get, so if you decide to visit, for example, South Africa and you're watching the telly for the latest goings on in the forthcoming election in the ol' US of A you will probably come across the 'Issuable media conference's announcements at a press release.' No I don't understand it either, but if you want to sound like you do this is why you say,

'Tweedehandsemotorverkoopsmannevakbondstakingsvergaderingsameroeperstoespraakskrywerspersverklaringuitreikingsmediakonferensieaankondiging' -

And the receptionist will not have a fucking clue either but she'll do the next best thing and bring you some biltong.

My favourite word however, applies to any of our so-called leaders. This Danish conflagration invented by Hans Christian wots-his-name translates as 'The goaty-legged-above-and-under-general-war-commanding-sergeant.' So I give you


And whilst you're waiting for tonight's 'Repair Shop.' maybe you could try saying it.

Anyway back on the settee, the 'oosbind and I will be holding hands - from eight o'clock until the ten o'clock news - when the whole fucking thing starts all over again.

Happy Hygga

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Stand up for Emily.

Posted by Jeni in | 27 May 2020

So it seems Emily Maitlis stood herself down after telling the truth about The Cum.

I have been stood down, more than once, for telling the truth.

Mr.Blobby says we can all make up our own minds about The Cum, and thats it's time to move on from a little political skirmish.

Matt Cock stands at the podium and defends his leader with a stutter and a nod.

The Keir is 24 points ahead in the polls but what does it mean?

We are being played like a kipper. We are being strung along like a chain of bewildered chipolatas. Wool is being pulled, ever so neatly, over our tearful eyes.

Obfuscation, confusion, mystification. Even the commentators sound baffled, upward inflections can be heard all over the newsrooms.

And yet we are being told, reluctantly, to swallow The Cum.

We know there's something wrong but we can't quite put our finger on it.

We know they do us wrong but we can't quite articulate what it is.

We know they are fumbling and lying and fiddling the books but we haven't got the facts in front of us.

We know The Blob is aping The Fart in the Whitehouse with his fakey shaky news.

We know it has something to do with destabilisation and Bannon and nasty double dealings but we can't prove it.

We know things they-are-a-changing but we are holding on, our knuckles white with terror.

We know something is ailing, we know something is sick, but the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

If The Cum is sitting in the Rose Garden, his shirt sleeves rolled, his manner calculated and chilling, if The Cum is spewing excuses and the Tory faithful believe him, and the Tory stalwarts give him a chance, if The Cum feigns contrition, and the frightened Blob exonerates him because were he to let The Cum go then he, The Blob, would be even more tongue tied. If The Blob is sooooo inept, incompetent and ineffectual that he cannot dismiss his naughty political strategist then what hope for the rest of us.

We know who put his fingers in the pie, we can see the gravy dripping off his talons, and yet we watch as Master Blobby refuses to do the right thing and punish the rotter for his misdemeanour.

The Cum did wrong, The Cum ran past Blobby's front door, ran to his car, threw in his wife and child and disappeared oop North, The Cum did what any of us would do, given half the chance, but didn't because the rest of us did the decent thing and stayed indoors eating left overs and dreaming of a brave new world, whilst The Cum, arrogant and wily, did a moonlight flit. For this self-entitled blighter hid in plain sight, with his shirt sleeves rolled and his job in tact - the cad just slid into his car as Edith Piaf blared out 'Non, Je ne regret rein.'

The Blob makes me nauseous. The Cum makes me fear for my sanity. He gaslights, and manipulates as the likes of poor old Emily Maitlis are stood down for telling the truth.

But isn't that what we should all be doing? Calling them out. Boldly shouting from our windows that we are as mad as hell and we won't take any more, for if we don't The Cum's grip on The Blobs cojonas will get even tighter and before you can say 'second wave' there will be a third and a fourth and all the good will have died young whilst the bastards inherit the earth.

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32 or is it 43?

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 24 May 2020

1976 was the hottest summer on record. 35 degrees and counting. I was working at the Leeds Playhouse rehearsing 'England Expects' a show that 'Belt and Braces', our theatre group, was relaunching.

Six years earlier I was at a Children's Theatre Festival in Harrogate. My first job, enthusiastic, eager and single. I saw an actor playing 'The Monkey' in 'The Tale of the Red Dragon'. The actor had a head of unforgettable red curls and was mesmeric.

When I got the call from his agent, half a dozen years later, I booked him on the spot. The Monkey is indeed the old git.

We sat outside the Leeds Playhouse, sweltering in the heatwave, talking about the resignation of Harold Wilson, the new music phenomenon called Punk and a geezer called Steve Jobs who was introducing an apple computer thingy. It'll never catch on we said.

And then we embarked on our first tour of Sweden. Eight of us and roadies, musical instruments, a collapsable set and the willingness of youth. We were taking revolution to Scandinavia. From Stockholm to Uppsala from Gothenburg to Malmo. The Monkey and I talked - in the truck, on the train, aboard boats, in coffee shops and theatrehusets - incessantly. I asked questions and he knew the answers. I did buy him a badge twelve years later that said 'I know everything' and the fucker actually wore it, in fact he still does only now it's got Suki's teeth marks on it where she tried to eat it.

We stayed up all night chewing the fat on the Orient Express from Umea, 250 kilometres from the Artic Circle, down to Skane. Our wooden banquettes left unruffled as the speeding train lurched and swayed and the sun came up over Lund a university city in the southernmost tip of Sweden. At 6.00 a.m we walked through the cobblestoned old town to Ralph's house where we ate toast and knackerbrod. A crumb caught the bottom of my lip and too embarrassed to move it I figured something was going on, had The Bleeding Monkey captured my heart?

And then we did a gig on the canals in Copenhagen. The egomaniacal director insulted and abused me and The Monkey witnessed it. After we'd done the get-out and the collapsable stage was loaded into the van the old git was seen chucking up into the gutter. The whole experience, watching another human being treat another human being so appallingly, made him sick. It was the first time anybody had ever chundered on my behalf. It must be love.

On February 7th 1977 a bronze Ford Cortina with a matt black bonnet swung into Queens Crescent. Thirty minutes after midnight we walked to the Greek restaurant opposite the Round House, I ordered Moussaka he had Kleftico, and then the row of all rows ensued. I've never eaten Moussaka since.

Now we fast forward to 1988; a cottage, a television, a boudoir grand piano, a garden, vinyl and CD's, a washing machine, a Chesterfield, two cars, a motorbike, regular jobs and an eighteen-month-old baby that needed legitimising. So on May 25th we went to the register office, me looking like his Aunty Amy and him looking like a solicitor, and we tied the knot. My Russian wedding ring got stuck the wrong way on my finger and my mother called out to the registrar that there was indeed a lawful impediment to our getting hitched, so the ceremony was paused only for my mother to shout "Just a joke. Just a joke.' We went to our next door 17th Century Inn and ate a meal off a lacy tablecloth that the landlady provided. My new husband smoked a fag then left the table and went swimming with the best man leaving me, the new mother-in-law and the now legitimate child to walk home.

Ten days later we had a party and all the telly folk guests bought us fancy, schmancy gifts. Last year the hand made ceramic bowl fell off the trolley and shattered; the terrarium got smashed in the bedroom and the red telephone box with a telephone stuck in it sits in the attic but the phone don't work. Other wedding gifts are scattered round the house.

I tell you this because tomorrow, on Bank Holiday Monday, we would have been married for 32 years, however, lock-down means no party, no cards, no celebratory curry at 'The Rose of Bengal', no guests, no concert, no theatre, no trip to the seaside - I know that Dominic Scumbag would encourage me to have a day out'll be me, the old git, the isolating dawter and a bottle of fizz. We've been together now for 43 years and it don't seem a day too long - which is a total fucking lie of course; forty-three years with a Northern actor who thinks he knows everything has been, dare I say it, challenging but I wouldn't have it any other way. The traditional gift for 32 years of wedded blitz is - wait for it -'Transportation', whatever that means. Now, if we include the eleven years when we were living ower t'brush we would have been cohabiting for 43 years and the traditional gift for 43 years of partnership would be - wait for it -Travel. What's the chances? Transportation instead of rubies or gold. No pearls, no silver, no ceramic bowls or tin but flaming travel in Covid Lockdown.

I repeat, 'would I change a thing?' Of course not. I love the old git as if it were yesterday, only it ain't. It is most definitely now, whatever the quantum physicists say. So here's to another 32 years with my Northern git of a husband, although I'll be 103 and he'll be monkeying around somewhere in a theatre in the cosmos.

Still, a very Happy Anniversary to my champ of a chimp.

The bustard has just waved his badge at me and told me that a chimp is an ape - not a monkey.

Fucking know-all.

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Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 12 May 2020

On May 9th Marie Bernadette Maher would have been 72.

We met in Hampstead in 1969. She from the Wirral me from London.

We went to the Wimpy Bar in Golders Green and talked through the night. She puffing on a small cheroot and me mesmerised by her sophistication. She was a strawberry/reddish blonde, drove a Mini Clubman and was as sharp as a pin. If I brought a boy home to our shared flat, I was immediately dumped and she was asked out for a date. She was sassy and cool and on waking would suck her contact lenses clean and bung them in her eyes. When young she'd learnt the eye chart by heart fearing she would be thought dumb, and ended up nearly blind. She never left the flat without makeup and, along with her ridiculously handsome brother, turned heads .

Then she went to Manchester University to study how to work with the deaf, she met her husband at the bar. A donkey-jacketed fellow with the kind of looks that puts George Clooney to shame. They were the sublime couple that everybody envied. And why not indeed?

They moved to Galway, where he became an architect - designed and built their house whilst she brought up three children in a caravan.

Time passed and her brother died of leukaemia, when Marie got breast cancer she never told her mother, quietly had reconstructive surgery and took up the Tango.

She put on discos with a thumping bass and disco lights for her deaf pupils. When she retired she started writing poetry and true to form the woman won awards for her brilliant poems. I have a CD of her reading them.

Ten years after she'd been given the all clear her cancer returned and two years ago she put down her pen. We didn't make the funeral but we did visit Galway one month before she died. When I kissed her goodbye on her soft, cool cheek, I knew that would be the last time I saw her.

Her husband still lives in his hand-built house. He's retired but keeps as busy as ever. Swimming every day and replacing parts of his body that have broken down.

Three days ago we talked, East Sussex to Galway, we talked about the virus, the now grown up children, and life without his coffee mornings. Miley Cyrus has put a stop to them.

The road signs in Southern Ireland have a less authoritarian bent than ours. At a T-Junction the sign does not say STOP it says YIELD. And so it is with their language for Miley. It's not called SELF ISOLATION instead it's called COCOONING, by far a gentler way to keep people indoors. Maries husband described his approach as DISCRETIONARY COCOONING. Keeping his distance from his pals but still dipping into the empty waters of Galway Bay.

So many of us now know somebody who has had Number 19, knows somebody who knows somebody who has died from it. Marie Bernadette Maher would have written a scathing sonnet, or a plaintive poem, choosing the appropriate words then flying in the face of it all she would have sucked on her contact lenses, bunged them in her eyes, pumped up the music, danced a Tango and puffed on a small cheroot.

I shall play her CD and listen to her lovely voice. Happy Birthday Marie.

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For Reen.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 7 May 2020

'A fire on them.'

'I wouldn't give him the snot out of my nose.'

Two choice phrases from my well educated mother. She got a scholarship to Raines' girls school in the East End of London. I still have her gym slip and cloth badge. She was well clever my muvver, but like a lot of women of her generation she neither owned it or celebrated it.

She did crosswords easily, was fantastic at anagrams and had she known about '8 out of 10 cats do Countdown.' she would have spent every night watching Jimmy Carr and his panel of witty wordsmiths.

I mention my mother because she would have been in the very high risk category. This year she would have been 99, not an unfeasible age, but she died aged 90 years and three months in a Jewish care home in Brighton. She'd asked me to give up work and look after her but it wasn't an option. Well of course it was but I didn't know it at the time.

I'd flown out to Ibiza to run a quiz show for Groucho's, the actors club in Dean Street. 'The Prince of Soho.' Bernie Katz, had requested I officiated for him and what Bernie wants Bernie gets, well he did from me anyway. When Bernie died in 2017, the shock waves reverberated around Soho. Mourners came from far and wide. I still miss him hugely.

In 2012 I was on my way to Ibiza, "Look for a man in a vest." said Bernie. I waited in the airport lounge, in the searing sunshine, eyeing up every geezer wearing a singlet. Talk abut listening to your intuition, I followed my heart, sauntered through the building and stopped dead. A young man wearing a red vest looked at me, I to him, and fuck my arse and call me Wendy if it wasn't the very boy Bernie had sent. Bernie was not a man of many words, well he was a loud, shouty kind of bloke, but he never talked in sequence, not to my ears anyway. I intuited what he wanted and somehow we worked it out.

The Spanish boy drove us to a luxury village of pools and beds, tents and suites. He spoke no English, I had nula words of Spanish. But we made it. The drink flowed, the highfalutin banter wafted up through the warm air plaiting with the fog of cigar and ganja smoke. I stayed up listening to the moneyed, titled and successful inmates. I fell into my huge bed at 3.00a.m. and was woken four hours later by the noisy clang of my mobile telephone.

The carer, looking after my mother, was sobbing on the end of the line. My mother had died, cup of coffee in hand, the carer had turned away - "for one second' - when she turned back my mother had left the room to be with the mewing children she had spoken of hearing.

The moneyed, titled, successful inmates showed up. I was caught in a quandary what to do, I had never reneged on a professional assignment before. Bernie said 'It's your mother for God's sake.' So I accepted the generosity of the high born who pulled strings, arranged flights, paid for the singlet to drive me back to the airport, supplied cars to collect me from Heathrow, and organised my final train journey back to the cottage.

I don't remember the journey, only that I made it back to Sussex without a hitch. It took me three days to organise the funeral. Somebody told me the portals open and there's a sense of euphoria after a death. All I know is that everything fell into place, from the funeral director to the flowers. People came from all over to the little chapel. Lots of my friends who had grown up alongside her generosity , some relatives, poetry from my Irish poet, speeches from the extended family, boxes of sunflowers open for people to take and lay a bloom on top of her coffin. The old git made a slide show, the three daughters sung 'April Showers.' the number one hit of 1922 when she was born. Stevie Wonder sung her out and we cried a lot of tears, and then we all retired to 'The Setting Sun' pub in Hanover.

What she would have made of Myley Cyrus is anyones guess, but I can hear her calling out these Tory bastards. I can hear her shouting at the selfish swine who run the country for them not for her. I can hear her cursing them, crying for the young ones, I can hear her bemoaning the fact that she worked all her life for a fairer society and what have we got now.

'A fire on them.' She would have said. 'This plague is the making of those greedy self entitled Schmocks.'

She would have railed at them and apologised to anybody younger than 35 who was living in such an uncertain world.

She's been dead for eight years, her ashes scattered from behind 'The Waltzer' on Brighton Pier. Her chocolate teapot urn - courtesy of Paul Young superlative chocolatier - following her into the grey, cold sea.

Had she been buried she would, undoubtedly be turning in her grave at the duplicitous, careless opportunists who are running this country, she would still be writing her letters of complaint to any newspaper that would publish her. She would say how happy she was that she was at the end of her life as the world she was born into is being shredded like the end of a frayed Fair isle sweater.

Had she been alive now, and had she asked me to give up my job to look after her, I would say a resounding YES.

My mother would have been one of the vulnerable ones, she would not have walked round her garden 100 times as she wasn't up to it. She would, however, encourage all of us to get out there and make a noise, to fight and to silence the mad idiots. As for the likes of Trump she wouldn't have given him the snot out of her nose.

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It's not over till it's over

Posted by Jeni in | 25 April 2020

Forget-me-knots have taken over the garden, I pulled some of them out gently and have laid them in the log basket next to the fireplace. They won't last but they look beautiful.

Dandelions everywhere. A couple of buttercups. Bundles of bluebells.

Primroses pink and yellow have lined the path to the studio.
My Stauntonia, after three years, has finally decided to flower.

The magnolia has been and gone, but the Rhododendrons, pink and blousy, have opened up.

The grass seed has taken and is filling in the gaps where Suki ran amok.

Me and him and her are isolated in the cottage. We are very, very, very, very lucky. We have space, and quiet. The big bumble bees are buzzing from the comfrey to the lavender and orange tipped butterflies flutter by daily.

We've got perpetual spinach and dandelion leaves, mint and dill fronds for salads. We've got shelves full of dried beans and tins of tomatoes. The internet provides us with light bulbs and disinfectant - which we shan't inject or drink.

There's been a lot of baths and showers, there's been a heap of arsey behaviour, there's been suppers of beetroot pickled and beetroot raw, asparagus grilled and asparagus raw. There are apples in the bowl and grapefruits galore, deliveries from the neighbours from bananas to frozen peas. Tonight I found a bag of frozen prawns hidden in the freezer which I cooked in butter and olive oil, garlic, cayenne pepper and Chile flakes, alongside a soupy hot bowl of vegetables and tiny little potatoes from the farm shop which I sprinkled with mint and butter, thats the potatoes not the farm shop! Our suppers are three plates and a bowl accompanied by dinner jazz.

The fridge is groaning with cartons of plant milk, cans of beer, bottles of wine and containers of defrosting berries and fruits of the forest. I'm about to make my own yoghurt.

It is surreal. I open my eyes around 7.00, meditate, then snooze. Me and her are walking hard and fast for about an hour a day. My little legs can't keep up with hers, we smile at the yellow celandine and white anemones, we gather wild garlic by the stream and then, if they're amenable we stroke the lambs in the field. The old git stays behind to do his exercises for his damaged knee then organise the studio for voice overs - which him and her engineer whilst I do the yakking.

I know nature's having her way. I know she's having the last laugh. I trust that we will come through all this, and I believe that we will have changed enough to allow the coral reef to continue to renew itself. Robins and blackbirds, pigeons and magpies are visiting although for the third year running we haven't heard the cuckoo.

It's not so much suspended animation as a noisy silence. Making coffee for the neighbours, accepting parsnips in exchange. Planting potatoes and beans, tomorrow the peas and more. The old git has made a naked wig-wam of string for the runner beans and I've planted up trays of wheat grass and lettuce. Only three worms revealed themselves, so we've got a long way to go for the earth to really rally.

Moment by moment, step by step. It's taking one day at a time. Lighting candles at dinner time. Playing long forgotten albums. I've freckles on my shoulders from the sun, and today the apple blossom sprung their buds all pink and white.

My mother grew things from whatever she could lay her hands on - an East End girl with green fingers - lemons, tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapples - we've got a lemon plant on the window sill that the dawter grew from a pip. I started life in two rooms in Aldgate with mice and rats and black damp on the walls. I've lived in this cottage since 1984, always kept my Fenchurch Street bank account open, never giving up my birthplace needing to keep my feet in London. But now, when I sit on the swing set contemplating my next gardening task, I do not take for granted that it took one fucking little virus for me not to take anything for granted.

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