Shearing Test.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 1 April 2018

The clocks have sprung forward, the water, in the vases, is cloudy and it's time to throw the faded flowers on the compost.

The daffodils are papery and crinkled. The hyacinths are drooping and the roses and iris's have dried out. The cottage was full of flowers for my birthday.

It was heartwarming that I had real birthday cards, sent to me, through the post. This year hardly any Facebook messages. But that's ok. What with Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump and hash tag this and that, I'm seriously considering reappraising my relationship to Social media.

I'm far too old to care whether I have tribes of friends, or thousands of people in a community on line.

Suffice to say I have a handful of good friends, who I can rely on to send me books, hand made cards and good wishes through the post.

So it's Easter Sunday. We went out for breakfast. I had a full english, with local produce, and the old git had a bacon sandwich with bread slices the size of house bricks.

I bought next door some Easter eggs from the corner shop. Amal, the owner, chucked in a bag of chocolate eggs free. He doesn't celebrate the birth of Christ, but then neither do I. I don't celebrate the liberation from Ancient Egypt either.

When I was four we lived in East London. In a flat facing the Highway. 21 Solander Gardens. They were a new build and it was full of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Ireland and Gawds know where.

I went to Canon Barnet School, next to Toynbee hall where I had piano lessons. The kids; C of E, Asians, Jews, Catholics, played together in the playground - on the roof - it was surrounded by wire netting so we didn't fall over the edge onto Commercial Street.

Every Friday the class shared sweeties, every day we had an afternoon nap, on little canvas beds, in the parqueted hall where we had lined up for lunch. The smell of mince and cold cabbage wafted over us as we snoozed under the watchful eye of Miss Ploughman. Our Angel of Mercy in a smock.

So we were taught bible stories, it was an English School after all, and even though I was allowed to miss assembly, which I rarely did, I loved singing the Hymns, our lessons covered everything from Jesus Christ to The Monarchy.

In 1953 we were given a gift for the Queens Coronation. A crocodile line of four year olds, hands outstretched, each given an individual silver spoon, wrapped in white tissue paper, I bit on mine, thinking it was a stick of liquorice, it hurt my teeth.

Outside our flats was a little wall. There was also a playground with swings and a roundabout. I had to be rescued from a square swing when a gob-stopper got caught in the back of my throat. My mother came a-running. Tipped me upside down and slapped my back until the sweet shot out. Her version of the Heimlich manoeuvre.

I was never allowed gob stoppers again.

Now that low wall was to prove significant in the Easter of 1954. We had been taught that Jesus had been crucified, had died for our sins, bunged in a cave and left to rot. After three days, being the Son of God, he rose from the dead and voila we were all saved.

  1. Good Friday April 16th. I was 5. I took my place on the wall. Kicking my heels. I was called in for dinner. I resumed my seat until it got dark.

  2. Easter Saturday April 17th. I took my place on the wall. I was called in for dinner.

  3. Easter Sunday April 18th. I kicked my heels, patiently waiting. I refused dinner that night.

My mother came to find me. My shoes were scuffed from banging them against the red brick.

For three days, and nearly nights, I sat on the wall, waiting.

'What are you waiting for?' my mother asked as she ushered me back to the flat.

'They lied to me.' I said flatly. 'Miss Ploughman said that after three days Jesus would climb out of his grave and walk amongst us again. Well I've waited and waited and he never turned up.'

My mother closed the front door and I went into my room, first right off the passage.

I felt betrayed. Sat down at my piano, an upright that lived in my room so I could practice. I hammered those keys.

I now have a Boudoir Grand. Still my preferred method of stress busting is to sit down and hammer the living daylights out of those fancy ivories.

I've just bought a copy of George Shearing's classics, lost my old book. George, a blind Jew from Battersea, who was fed soup by my Grandmother in Aldgate.

He emigrated to America wrote clumps of juicy chord music and died aged 91 in New York City.

George and I share a keyboard when things get tough. If people lie to me then my piano is often my place of release. So whilst I contemplate the chord structure of 'What Are You Doing For The Rest of Your Life.' I bid you a very

Happy Pascha, Pasoch, Ostre or Easter, and whatever you wish yourselves.

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March 12th.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 12 March 2018

On this day, 127 years ago, my grandmother was born. When I knew her she lived in a tenement block in Aldgate, near Gardeners corner.

She was called Sophie Taylor, her original name Schneider having been anglicised, foreigners were not wanted especially the Jews.

Hmmmm, similar me thinks to BrexiBritin.

Sophie had dyed blonde hair giving her the Sophie Tucker look, played the piano and laughed a lot. She threw back her head and squeezed her eyes together then let out a chesty guffaw. My mother did the same. I'm told I do too, and my muso daughter - who is the spit of my mother - can be heard cackling in Hackney. .

Bubba Sophie wore an apron, had four children, Harry, Siddy, Esther and Rene, which she brought up alone, on account of her husband Albert being stationed in a secret location in the First World War. Albert was an intelligent tailor, who dropped bricks on the heads of Fascists and paid off for an oak bureau full of classic books at 2/- a month. The bureau sits next to our stove, the books creak when they are opened, the pages smell of musty, ancient paper.

My great Aunty Becky lived in the upstairs rooms above my grandmother. I was told I took after Aunty Becky, who had been a manicurist, remained childless and shopped for sugar almonds in Marks and Spencer. She would climb off the 358 bus, outside our house in Hertfordshire, drop her string bag onto the kitchen table, hang up her Beaver Lamb coat, describe the epic journey, then leave. I've still got the coat, hanging in the attic, I know it's un-PC but I can't get rid of it. It's very heavy and if I bury my nose into the collar I can almost smell the antique scent she used to wear.

Before the East End was gentrified we lived in a bustling community of pickle barrels, Sarsaparilla and poverty. I grew up in two rooms with rats, mice and ubiquitous mouldy damp. When we ran out of food, which was often, we would troop down Alie Street, up Lemon Street and climb the stone steps into my Bubba's flat. The smell of chop meat balls and shared cholant, a Jewish stew that hung in a schissel, in a large pot, over the range in the kitchen, lingers in my olfactory organs. She would slam down a loaf of bread, slice it in doorsteps and spread on much butter. Still my comfort food of choice.

In an enamel saucepan, her meat balls - chop minced beef, onion, salt, pepper one egg and matzo meal,simmered slowly over carrots, potatoes onions and water.

She always tapped the egg on her wedding ring to break the shell. That's what we thought wedding rings were for.

We all used the outside lavatory, and jumped on her double bed covered in a puffy pink eiderdown, which was magnificent enough to hide in. I'm painting a picture that existed for me, maybe not for my brother and cousins they may remember a completely different bed spread.

The front room had a big table covered with a green velour table cloth, around which we all sat. Bearing in mind I was five, the bigness of the table may now be considered not so big at all. I still have the table cloth, folded up, in the airing cupboard. It comes out for Christmas and any occasion that requires an exchange of memories.

A piano, with candle holders, stood against the adjoining bedroom wall.

My grandfather, who I never met, was contacted by a small, Medium, largely, during WW1. He sat round the table, set out Tarot cards, Sophies hands were placed on top of the green velour cloth, alongside Aunty becky and various members of the extended family. That's their hands, not them obviously.

They patiently waited for information from the dead relatives.

The cards spelt out I-S-M-A-L-I-A.

None the wiser, my Bubba fed the Medium, watered him with hot, milky, sweet tea, and sent him packing.

When my Grandpa arrived home he confirmed that he had indeed been in Ismailia. The small medium had left out the middle 'i' largely because nobody could spell, especially not cities in Egypt and the spirit was probably dyslexic.

On August 3-5th in 1916 "The City of Beauty and Enchantment", situated on Lake Temsah, was overrun with the Tommies and Hun. My Grandpa barely a man, fought in the Battle of Romani, not the last time he was up against the Germans.

My Bubba didn't have Wikipedia, so the details were never discussed. My Grandpa suffered mild shell shock, thus the silence.

Everybody grew up, and were rehoused. Slum clearance. Most of my lot went North towards Wembley, whilst we were rehoused in Boredom Wood, next to the 'East Enders' set. Although that particular Soap Opera was not around in 1956, it was the continuing drama of the Barnett family that took top billing and the invasion of Hungary by the Ruskies.

Sophie came to live with us when she got ill. Coughing and spluttering she was cared for by my mother. When Sophie died, my mother, folding a tea towel and pressing it into the wooden drawer of the kitchenette cupboard, declared, through her tears, that she was an orphan. Aged around nine I remember thinking that Orphans were only, ever children.

I have a sepia photograph of Sophie, Aunty Esther to her right and my mother to her left hanging in a wooden frame, above the fire place. I'm in my own frame to the left. I'm wearing a hat, a sarong and dark glasses. The photo was taken in Sissinghurst when we went for a picnic with 25 Gay men and a handful of impressively stocked hampers. B, aged 4, hangs to the right, naked, save for a hat and the same expression as me. The female line lives on.

It's fitting that Sophie was born on the same date that Ken Dodd died. Sophie had a wild, wicked sense of humour. She would have laughed at my favourite Ken Dodd joke.

If the cat had been walking the other way, the man who invented 'Cats Eyes', would have invented the pencil sharpener.

RIP Ken and Sophie.

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Go with the Snow....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 2 March 2018

Dear All, what a palaver.

The snow is as high as an elephants thigh.

My little red car is no longer, she is decreased. On the scrap heap. boo-bloody-hoo.

The dawter's car is stuck in the garage, burnt out clutch.

The old git's car is on the blink.

10.000 steps ain't possible what with ice, and my propensity for falling down.

Meetings are missed, agent's are quiet.

Radio cancelled cos of snow drifts and lack of above mentioned vehicles.

Logs chopped.

Coal bought.

Fire lit.

Stove lit.

I started with two hot water bottles, I now take four to bed, plus the cat and a furry 'oosbind.

I've got wooly socks, woolly jumpers, wooly brain.

I eat porridge at night, soup in the day, drink pots of Lapsang to heat my inner burner.

We had three days in Whitstable, in a house, on the beach, 11 of us, eating drinking and celebrating one of us reaching a remarkable age. We played games and sat close to the blazing fire.

Today we should have been in London celebrating the dawter's birthday instead the snow is as high as an elephants thigh.

You know the rest. STAY WARM.

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The North Wind Doth Blow....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 6 February 2018

It's cold, but then you know that.

I found a pair of leather gloves with faux fur cuffs in the basket next to the boiler. They had been given to me for Christmas years ago.

I slipped them on over my freezing fingers, and set off on my 10.000 step trek to the village to buy a cucumber, a bottle of red wine, and a big portobello mushroom.

Loaded them into my back pack, humped it on my back then walked quickly. I stopped and stood in the sun, I took my fingers out of the finger bits and curled my hands together to try and re-heat them with my own body warmth, inside the leather gloves. It didn't work. I walked even quicker, into the wind. My fingers just managed to press the button to phone home.

'Please would you mind, if you are not too busy, could you, if you can bare it, collect me from the slip road near the farm.'

He turned up in the dawter's car - I haven't got one any more remember, so to the harshly critical Poppy PeeWee, I would say I HAVEN'T FULLY GOTTEN OVER IT. SO THERE.

I slid into the passenger seat, unable to even blow my nose as my hands had atrophied in the 4 degree wind chill.

The kitchen felt toasty, but only for three minutes, I was frozen to the marrow.

I fried the mushroom with loads of black pepper, placed it on a bed of wilted spinach and slopped on two perfectly poached eggs, made all the more tasty with a cafetier of fresh coffee, heated milk and a sprinkling of sugar.

I ate at the kitchen table with one hot water bottle under my feet, one behind my back, and one held close to my freezing thighs.

The 'oosbind lit the stove and I'm intending to sit quietly and read myself back to warmth.

On Thursday we are attending a funeral in Covent Garden. A man who died far too soon. He had bellyache, went to the doctor and seven weeks later he was dead having been eaten alive by Cancer. It's not fair, only the good die young.

Tomorrow I'm driving to Brighton to attend the Sussex Food and Drinks awards.
There will be noise, and booze, and loads of food. There will be cheers and tears and lots of beer. There will be towers of dessert, cups of coffee and small bite sized petit fours.Then I will drive home, hopefully the right way, last year the wind was blowing, the rain lashing. I turned right instead of left out of the Amex Statium, and ended up driving into deepest Sussex, me howling like the wind.

I am prepared now for tomorrow's excursion. It's only taken a dozen years for me to learn how to use the sat-nav on my phone. I will wear thermal underwear to defy the cold, and I will bemoan the fact that my lovely little red car is on the scrap heap whilst I'm driving my dawter's car with it's tinted windows, low profile tyres, and a sound system that can be heard in Tulse Hill.

The bath is a very real option now. Epsom salts, Paul Reizin's book, face pack and hot, hot, hot, hot water. You know the drill. But first I have to run up and down the stairs for 96 steps to make up the ten thousand.

God the daily life of a numerical neurotic.

Stay warm

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Red Cars

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 25 January 2018

At 12.00 a big car transporter turned up at the cottage. I was packing my bag after doing a mid morning show for Radio Sussex, so I couldn't wave goodbye to my little red car of fifteen years.

Some geezer tweeted I was 'about as entertaining as mumps, all jolly hocky sticks'....if he had any idea of my background the last thing he would accuse me of being is jolly let alone cocky at hockey.

Still each to their own. He wants his radio to be more local, so good luck young man, tune into Radio Hops, or Radio Fish and Chips.

The car has gone to the scrap heap, which is where I think the young man wants me to be, but I ain't ready yet. Were I to do local-radio-local to who I am I would be in the middle of Aldgate East chuntering on abaht jellied eels and bagels. Since I now live a short seagulls flight from Brighton you could say I'm more local than not.

So as my little red car gets mashed into a tin box, I wave goodbye to the end of an era and welcome in the beginning of a new one.

I'm off out to breathe the air and work on my bullying off.

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Posted by Jeni in | 18 January 2018

17 days into January, and the wind is howling and blowing up a storm.

The New Moon is the time to plant stuff that grows underground. I know this because one of the kids bought me THE ALMANAC a seasonal guide - which tells me when the New Moon is (Today) and what Orions Belt looks like, when the tides come and go and what I should expect from the January weather.

So far I've looked at it once for myself, twice talking to you, and I'll study it again when it gets light.

I've been up since 4.00. Did the ironing, listening to the World Service.

Printed up various notes I need for the week.

And recovering from a ridiculous accident, which I cannot blame either Trump or May for. Although i would love them to be the architect of my misfortune, but they aren't . Although you could argue that their appalling leadership leaves most of us reeling like a drunken sailor on a Saturday night in Rotterdam, with rum on his breath and a belly full of badly cooked Rending, piled high on a chipped plate, and served by an ancient mariner.

So it goes like this.

On Tuesday morning I left the house at 6.00a.m. Limited petrol, but enough to get me to the seaside. I had had but two hours kip. Had a nice, gentle drive to Brighton. Got to the BBC and using my lanyard let myself in to collect the fob for the car-park.

Which is up towards the station on Queens Rd. Left at the traffic lights, then sharp right into a tiny alley-way. The fob opens a very heavy metal gate which rolls up into the ceiling. The car park has a few bays for the BBC, and other designated places for other designated businesses.

Turning round can be a hazard, as the space is so narrow. There's scrapes of white paint on my car from the wall, and scrapes of red paint from my car on the wall, where before I got used to the dimensions, I fumbled my way round a 37 point turn.

Walked the three minutes back round to the studio, dumped off my fob, and took the lift to the first floor.

Script delivered, at 7.27 I went down to the bowels of the earth to record my teaser on the telly. All done by 7.30 A little mic clipped, by yours truly, to my green t-shirt, learn the lines, call Tunbridge Wells, who film me from the Radio Kent studio, speak into camera. Turn the lights off, leave the studio, which invariably results in an humiliating return to my seat, like pinging elastic, since I always forget to unplug the mic.

Then boil the kettle for my first cuppa - hot water and three dabs of Rooibosh - upstairs to set me bits up in Studio 1; My headphones, my scrap of paper with aide memoirs on, my pen, my mug, my empty plastic cup for the tea bag, which gets used twice, my scripts, and my lanyard for leaving the building.

I was so hungry I decided to go across the road to 'Fit For Life' and buy a tub of hot porridge - almond milk, pumpkin seeds and cinnamon - when to my horror I realised I had left all my cards at home in the dresser drawer.

I waited for Mr. Miller, engineer extraordinaire, who very kindly walked me across the road and bought me said porridge.

We did a pre-rec at 8.00, then downstairs again for a little chat on air with BBC Surrey,then up to Studio 2, to have a teaser with Neil Pringle, back to Studio 1 and my porridge, then back again to Studio 2 for my talk up to the nation at 8.59, a precise little churn, giving out details of the show, the telephone number for the first topic, so that listeners can call in, then back again to Studio 1.

After the 9.0'clock news the show begins. And so we go on our merry way until 12.00- when I say my goodbyes, drag a colleague with a fob to walk me back to the garage to collect my lovely little red car.

Janina opened the gate. We parted, she having to get back for the next show, I climbed into my car and then it all went tits-up.

Put in my ear buds, drove to the gate, got my seat belt tangled in may ears, changed my seat position, which shot back, I couldn't reach the pedals, and before you could say Lewis Hamilton the car sped up and crashed into/through the metal barriers, my windscreen wipers wrenched out of their sockets, they went flying in the air, the car, with a life of its own, sped across a main road and somehow I managed to turn right, into North gardens, narrowly missing two midday taxis who were in a hurry to kill me. I lay flat and managed to reach the pedals, jammed my break on, and with a shuddering squeal I skidded to a halt. Undamaged but leaving my water squirter somewhere on the garage ground. I got out of the car, the door getting stuck on the buckled wing. And my, lovely little red car was lovely no longer, it was now ripped to shreds, lights gone, a deep gash in the drivers side and a dent so bad the'oosbind picked off bits of red, damaged metal.

And why was the old git present. Well I had left my cards at home hadn't I, and I fully intended to fill up on the way home. As it turned out my petrol gauge now revealed that I was on empty.

I called the Northerner, and as you can imagine, I sobbed like a spoilt child.

'I've just driven through the metal gate' I wailed, 'My car looks like it's been in the Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble and, and and,' I hiccuped. 'I've run out of petrol and I haven't got any money.'

The man who knows everything told me to drive as far as I could and he would come with the money.

I drove gingerly through the Cuilfale Tunnel, and pulled up in the BP garage and waited for his arrival.

I called The Boss, at the BBC, realising I had been involved in a hit and run, albeit with a metal gate. Mark laughed, and told me not to worry, enquired as to my welfare and told me to contact my insurance company.

When the 'oosbind arrived he looked at, my mascara smudged face and ordered me to back into a petrol bay. I was too shaky. So he jumped into my battered little motor, and filled it up with enough petrol to get me home.

I did call the insurance company, they were extremely sympathetic but told me, from the sound of it, my darling little red Nellie, was a right off. That it would cost more to mend than the car is worth, but to take pictures and hope for the best.

To pics went off today, my sorry little excuse for a car, with only one working windscreen wiper, and a body that is more battered than mine is now in the hands of insurers.

When I woke this morning my back ached, my shoulders hurt and I was suffering from self inflicted whip-lash. Well not exactly whip-lash but more a humiliating stiffness brought about by a lunatic set of events. It will be the last time I ever wear green when I'm driving. Me superstitious? Never, although I do throw salt over my shoulder, avoid ladders and refuse to sit in seat Number 13 on airplane seats......

And that is why I got up at four. Cant sleep as my little red heap signals the end of an era. I bought it 17 years ago, when money was a-plenty, and sliding in and out of the driving seat was easy. It was about to become a classic car, but now, due to a series of Keystone Cops Capers, I shall probably get £25 quid and have to buy an old lady car.

One that doesn't have the elegance of a little red sports car, or a glove compartment full of lipsticks, emery boards, pens, hand cream, 17 years of silly notes I've kept, and the smell of youth.

Still at least I don't have to share a bed with Trump, or wrestle with a Maybot conscience. The only thing bruised is my pride. I have an old git who, even though he's older than I am, jumped into his car like a knight in shining armour. Although to be fair his waist has thickened, so armour's not his thing and he's didn't so much jump as slide into his old banger.

It's nearly 7.00 and I'm going to bed for a couple of hours, I've got a meeting at 10.00 thankfully they are driving to me, and my garage man says he can fix the crippled windscreen wiper. I am grateful for small mercies.

Bits of motorised metal can come and go but I'm still here, thankfully, to tell the tale....Drive Safely please.

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Woof Woof

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 31 December 2017

I'm not sure that the speed of 2017 has got anything to do with Albert Einstein, but if his theory of relativity has got anything to do with it, then he should pull his grubby little fingers out of the black hole.

According to Neon Nettle:

'New agers suggest that time is speeding up due to a shift in consciousness that is coinciding with mass protests and world events. It is quite easy to see all the latest news stories that have hit the global mainstream media telling us about all these well-known people abusing children, and conspiracies that are not quite conspiracies anymore.

So why is time speeding up? It has been suggested that this phenomenon is due to humanity entering the fourth dimension. It has been suggested that time isn’t speeding up but that our consciousness is, and this causes the illusion of time speeding up. The American author, Dannion Brinkley believes that time is not speeding up, it is you who is changing, “we are in the midst of the changing face of time.” '

So thanks to Brinkley and Nettle time is just as it always was, interminable on a re-routed train drive home, lightning fast as the kids grow up, and chilling when life is at a standstill.


Well yes, miraculous to know that we are finally changing in the face of abominable leaders, robotic politicians, blind evangelicals and cynical mediamen.

May 2018 bring us proper seasons, growing awareness, the death of ignorance the birth of peace and the growth of compassion, understanding and love.

Roll on Year of the Dog.

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Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 6 December 2017

And so I'm stocking up on sachets of all-in-one powdered smoothies, in preparation for my assault on Type 2 Diabetes. I begin the course on January 15th. Starving myself to reverse the offending numbers. The dietary way of combating blood sugar issues has been in the news a lot so I am, if anything, extremely topical. I'd prefer tropical but what with all the winds and gales and hurricanes and forest fires I'd prefer to stay local.

As it stands I'm doing okay but not so okay that my readings are perfect. Indeed they are so far from perfect that were I to die tomorrow I would not be buried in the perfect cemetery I would have to go against the wall in some sort of unknown grave.

Three weeks to Christmas and so far I've made Grannie Beevers Christmas cake TWICE.

The first batch, was overcooked, burnt on the bottom and currentless.

The second batch is sans baking soda because I forgot.

I now have 6 huge christmas cakes 3 taste ok, and 3 not so good. The not so good ones work with a coffee watching the lunchtime news, but certainly not unxious enough to be served on a cake stand with flunkies and critical friends. The second lot just about cuts the mustard.

I've had to buy two vintage 50's cake tins to store them in since my other tins are taken up with crisp breads, dried Hunza apricots and the remnants of last years Christmas fare.

I've just made the list of presents and am contemplating tree erection, although that can wait till next week when we get back from Brixton babysitting - two children and a puppy dog.

I want Trump to wither away like a faded poinsettia. Angela Davis said:

'I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change I'm changing the things I cannot accept.'

It inspires me to do something. I'm not sure what yet, I feel we are all living in suspended animation until Ms Mayhap totally cocks up, Kim Jong Loon finally falls into the South China Sea and The 45th president of the United States of America is impeached. Doesn't feel appropriate that a 500lb mass could be damaged by a fruit, but doesn't nature have a way of rebalancing us.

It's coming up to the afternoon, tomorrow I have a meeting in London to rearrange my future. Then it's home again home again jiggedy jig to the old git who is still pruning, sawing, snipping and bagging. My garden duties have been curtailed since my groin complains. But by the time we reach the spring of 2018 I'll be on secateur duty.

Ah!! Here comes my cake tins, it just requires me to re-arrange the kitchen so I can find somewhere to put them. I hope Granny Beevers is looking down from her cloud and not tut tutting me but complimenting me on my new found biceps from stirring 83 tons of dried fruit, 430.000 whisked eggs, and a ton of flour. Christmas comes but once a year.


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