Wednesday, 3 June 2015

My Nan - How Toffees Nearly Killed Her

I would like to tell you about my grandmother who always insisted upon being called Nan as she felt too young to actually be a  grandmother. She was a pretty amazing lady and a very strong influence in my life. When I was a young child, I lived with her, and for quite a long time I thought she was my mother even though I always called her Nan and I was quite distraught when I had to go and live with my mother and stepfather at the age of seven. Although my mother had actually lived with us, she had been working away a lot and so although I knew she was my mother, I had no real concept that she was the person who was supposed to care for me as my Nan was the person who just did that. My stepfather was a complete stranger to me, someone who I had only met just once for afternoon tea before my mother had married him, still that did not matter as I was to be packaged off to boarding school, I didn't really need to know him. 

It was a heart breaking wrench to be ripped from my Nan, a woman who could make everything alright with a tinkling laugh. She had done some amazing things in her life thanks to a tyrant of a father, my great grandfather who would never never acknowledge my existence - he was a thoroughly nasty little man actually, although who knows what happens to cause people's behaviours and it is not, I suppose, my place to pass judgement upon him. My Nan was an excellent competitive swimmer as a child and won many trophies which have since disappeared in burglaries (yeah thanks for that you scumbags) and she was a sensational dancer who danced her way around the country in a line-up known as The Bluebell Girls I believe. They were quite the turn in their day high kicking and tapping and shoe shuffling and singing and she also played the accordion which is something that she could be persuaded to do well into latter years until a final burglary saw her beloved accordion also stolen (you scum) - I think that was the point at which she gave up on life and stopped going out at all unless it was by ambulance which was so very sad.

There is one particular story of my Nan that I would just briefly like to tell you and it comes from the second world war. It was in 1942 and my Nan was living in a place called Bluebell Hill which is in Kent and as the name implies, it is at the top of a hill and a high point where planes came in from over the Dover Straights. My Nan just like everyone else, was suffering from the deprivations of rationing and on this particular morning her sweet tooth had gotten the better of her and she had gone to the local shop to swop her precious ration coupon for some toffees. As she was making her way home with her paper bag full of sticky sweet creamy toffee, the air raid siren had sounded. Now she had a dilemma because the nearest shelter was down in the village where she was, but that would lead her family to worry about where she was and why she was missing from their Anderson shelter at the end of the field, which was shared with the neighbours. She decided that she had to run up Bluebell Hill, which is very steep, and join her family in their shelter so that they wouldn't worry. It wouldn't matter because the flipping siren was always going off and the bombs rarely fell nearby. She reached the top of the hill and was puffing badly and so she stopped to catch her breath. That's when she heard it, the plane, a single german plane, an advance plane. She knew immediately by the sound of the engine, you could tell the different engine sounds and identify them without seeing them by that time in the war. She froze for a moment and then started running again knowing that she had to get to the shelter. He was very low and then she heard the rat-tat-tat-tat of the machine gun. She dived into the hedge, toffees flying, life her only thought and she saw his face as he was firing directly at her. He was barely older than she was this German pilot trying to shoot a young English woman running for her life. Her heart was pounding and the adrenaline had turned her legs to jelly but he was turning his plane around, she had to move or she was going to die lying here bleeding in the brambles and nettles and that was not going to happen to her. She drove herself up and ran along the hedge line towards the Anderson shelter screaming now "Let me in!" at the top of her voice. He was firing again but her determination to survive was strong and fortunately his aim was not true. 

Well she made it and received a right rollicking and a clip around the ear in spite of being almost 21 years old for going to get toffees, poor Nan, they almost cost her her life. I often wonder what was going through that young pilot's mind as he sort out a young unarmed woman to cut down with his machine gun. I would not be here had his aim been true and this action was not an isolated event as I heard of many other accounts of similar incidents happening during the war. Why were the pilots told to just shoot indiscriminately? It makes no sense, but then genocide makes no sense I suppose and those were times of war.

My Nan had a lifelong fear of thunderstorms like many of her generation who had survived the second world war and the bombing, the thunder reminds them of the bombs at a subconscious level someone once explained to me. Indeed I remember her making me hide in a cupboard during one particularly intense storm as a very young child which left me with a terrible fear of storms myself for many many years (I'm fine now!) with calming words of how it would soon all be over. Poor Nan, like so many of her generation she was bearing the scars of the war with a  stoic stiff upper lip, never dreaming to complain, never thinking it was anyone else's fault, just getting on with it. 

She was amazing, she was my Nan and I miss her.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

I Am Aphrodite… Erm Avert Your Eyes Please

Once upon a time, a very long time ago in the days before gravity had done things to my body which, quite frankly, I rather wish that could be undone if I'm honest, and before pregnancy had stretched those parts of me irretrievably beyond what is considered to be fit for viewing by a public audience, I took a holiday to a paradise isle set in a turquoise idyll. Oh alright, I went to Zanté or Zakynthos as it is also known, just one of the many beautiful Greek Islands. 

I travelled there with a friend of mine who had split up with her husband and in the spirit of the 'sisterhood' we booked a ten day female only break in the sunshine for rest and recuperation purposes. Like many bargain breaks, it started with a night time flight and we were dropped at our apartment at three in the morning. There was no one to meet us but keys had been left out with room allocations which were made by the coach rep and we went to our room which smelt of poo and had no promised sea view. Well this really wasn't on and so we popped back down to reception and grabbed all the keys for the later arrivals and searched out a room that we liked and took up residence. In the morning we feigned ignorance, blamed the coach rep, and refused to move from our fragrant sea view (we had payed for a sea view when booking and I do not recall requesting the smell of shit!) We were happy.

The next day I went along alone to the obligatory meeting, my friend decided that she needed to sleep, which was replete with Ouzo (oh no Ouzo!) at 10am which gave out the usual information concerning trips and theme nights which were available to us should we wish and  to broaden our horizons. Hmmm yes a quick look around my fellow travellers gave me all the answers I need regarding booking any trips with the reps, but I say is no one else drinking this rather marvellous Ouzo? No? What just me? Have I really just drunk the entire bottle? I don't feel very well. At 11.30am I stagger back to the apartment just as my friend is waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed from her sleep and declare my new found love for Ouzo! It is three hours before she manages to sober me up enough for the beach and my love affair with Ouzo is largely confined to that first day. That night I have a love affair with the bathroom, well I say 'love affair'…

The holiday progresses and days slip into one another, beach, taverna, small town, and then one day we book a boat trip that travels around the island. This is a good thing to do. We see dolphins, we see Kephalonia, we travel into a cave and I see my Armani sunglasses plop to the bottom of the deep crystal clear water... 'wails'. We stop for lunch at the most amazing little beach with a shipwreck on it and swim ashore onto hollywood white sand, it truly is paradise. On board this friendly little boat, my friend and I meet another couple of girls, two german lesbians to be precise and we decide to hook up the next day and hire a jeep and tour the island. We enjoy the rest of our day, I have to fend off the amorous advances of the boat's captain (as I say gravity had not yet taken its toll on me and I was still pretty awesome in those days!) who decided that I was very much his type, oh how we laughed - well how they laughed at my expense.

The next day dawned and my friend and I went to meet the lesbians at the appointed place and time and a jeep was hired. We drove all over the the place and saw all sorts of things that we would otherwise have missed and took in views over the sea that were simply stunning. there was one little deserted cove that we came across that was breathtaking. We all got out and looked out into the water and it looked so inviting. You could see the bottom of the sea even from up here on the rocks, it was absolutely crystal clear and turquoise blue green that only the way water can be in hot sun. There was a white sand beach just a little way over and best of all there was not a soul around.
"Lets go swimming!" I found myself saying. Everyone was in agreement and they went back to the jeep for towels and costumes. There was no one around, not a soul and I thought 'Oh what the heck' and just stripped off because there is such pleasure to be had from skinny dipping.

So there I was, buck naked, standing on the rocks about fifteen feet above the sea. I put my arms out in a crucifix pose and declared in a very loud voice, "I am Aphrodite, Goddess of Love!" Now the synchronicity of the boat that came into view at the exact moment could not have been made up as it chugged around the cove with its cargo of tourists all looking directly at this mad English woman bellowing at the top of her voice. Well my companions just fell about in tears and the only way to preserve my modesty was to jump into the water, and so I did to catcalls and applause and cameras clicking. Thankfully the water was beautifully warm and pleasurable to be in even if it did not afford me an awful lot of cover to my modesty.  I stayed there for what seemed like hours until that wretched boat chugged back out of view again before I clambered rather ungracefully back out of the sea and hauled myself up the rocks.  I hadn't considered my exit from the sea when I made my hasty entrance and ended up rather bruised and quite grazed but otherwise undamaged. Naked flesh and rock is not a good combination just for the record.

Someone somewhere in the world has the photographs of this woman's hedonistic moment of madness. Still it is a memory that makes me look back and smile and we all need those as we find the shadows growing longer.

I hope that I made you smile. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Twiglet and a Relaxing Bath...

What can a Twiglet possibly have to do with a relaxing bath, you may well wonder to yourselves. Well let me explain that the Twiglet in question is, in fact, a border terrier dog. She, for she is most assuredly female as the logic that she employs during her antic will attest, was just a pup at the time of the tale that I bring for your amusement today. Border terriers, or Border 'Terrors' as their owners often refer to them affectionately as, are loyal, affectionate and downright scampish in character, for the uninitiated amongst you. They are brave, wise, kind and have a stubborn streak like not other breed of dog that I have ever encountered. Twiglet, like any puppy, had an enquiring mind and always wanted company, to be part of the pack, if you will. 

So what does this have to do with a relaxing bath you may well wonder?

Allow me to set the scene…

A Sunday afternoon in late January, I was preparing a roast dinner as is usual and timing is everything with a roast dinner. I have a routine whereby I like to get it to a stage where the potatoes go in, a timer is set, I slip into a hot bath and the other half takes on 'potato duty' which basically just involves basting the spuds and popping them back into the oven and resetting the timer by which time I'm finished in the bathroom and ready for kitchen duty once more. It makes him feel as if he has helped me cook the Sunday roast (he hasn't) but more importantly, it gives me time for a bath. On the Sunday I am describing, I had pushed the boat out bath wise. It was not long after christmas and I had received some Jo Malone smellies which needed my full attention. I also had a beautiful and expensive scented candle that I thought that I would light for the first time.  So here was my haven, heavenly scented water, flickering candlelight, a mug of herbal tea (yes I'm a lightweight, it should have been wine) and Paul O' Grady on the radio (guilty pleasure revealed). I slid into the bath, it was hot hot hot and I felt the aches and pains just fall away, bliss. I lay back in the water and dunked a new fluffy flannel and put the steaming cloth across my face and allowed myself to relax completely.

Have you ever listened to Paul O' Grady on a Sunday?  His show is very formulaic and all the more comforting for it. Every week there are certain things like 'lost theme tunes', 'classic triples' and at the time he also did a slot where listeners wrote in to ask him to remember their dead pets. It was a real tear jerker and always guaranteed to make his voice crack a little. He doesn't seem to do it so much these days. I refreshed my face cloth with more steaming water and settled back as Paul launched into this particular week's 'Dead Pet' slot. It was the usual mix of dogs and cats and his voice cracking when all of a sudden Sploomp!!!  The wind was knocked out of me and as I inhaled my own flannel, I made an extraordinary noise of shock and disbelief. I snatched the flannel away from my face to find Twiglet sitting neatly on my rather wobbly stomach and realising her predicament and the large volume of water that she now found herself sitting in, with typical female logic she set about trying to drink her way out of it. Whatever strangulated noise that I had made when inhaling my flannel as the air had been rudely pushed out of me by trajectory of a flying puppy landing on my flabby belly. had elicited the response of my family invading my sanctuary and they were now in the bathroom hooting with laughter at the scene before them. Twiglet, god love her, must have drunk her own body weight in bathwater in an attempt to make it go away.  She was duly removed, and I was left to continue my now wet dog scented bath in peace. I didn't enjoy it very much...


Monday, 27 April 2015

Slack Bladder… The Curse of a Middle Aged Diva

I am, as I have already intimated, a woman 'of a certain age' and I think it is fair to say that nature (and repeated surgery - another time) are taking their toll and leave me in the shade nowadays. where once I was a beautiful bloom, if only I had had the sense and confidence to realise that, I am now that faded rose that will drop it's petals if you dare to touch it. Oh don't get me wrong, I can still be made to resemble beauty, so long as the lighting is kind and you do not come too close, but it is definitely a faded beauty these days.  Well I suppose the same could be said for my body parts and functions too and in particular my bladder which seems to have its own rhythm and screams for release whenever it sees fit. Now! No, not when it is convenient for you to stop and use a facility but now, right this minute now!! I am forced into wearing 'lady nappies' and I cannot tell you the amount of humiliation that this fills me with. I mean for Gods sake what has happened to me? Really? Half a lifetime and I'm reduced to a lady nappy for those moments for when I simply cannot control my geriatric bladder?  Where has the wild tequila swigging amazonian who swore that she would rather die than grow old disappeared to? Please bring her back because, God knows, I miss her and I simply do not recognise this semi-incontinent wreck who seems to be inhabiting her space and stares back from the mirror before me.

I digress - the day in question was a fairly typical day. I had taken my daughter to see the doctor and was taking on to school when the 'caught short' urge struck. Now my brain had to judge whether I could make it to the end of my journey and use a proper convenience or not. Or not came the rapid answer, and so as I was driving along a leafy country lane I started to scan and scout for a suitable place  at which to stop the car. I kept slowing down to survey each spot to see whether I would be overlooked, and as each location was despatched as unsuitable, the urgency grew. I could help but notice that the radio was with deafening irony now blasting out the Weather Girls 'Its raining Men'
"Tonight for the first time, right about half past ten, for the first time in history its gonna start raining…"
"Its going to start raining something!" screams my bloody bladder!

And there it is, the perfect spot. A lay-by to the right of a the road beside a crossroads and to the left a large ploughed field surrounded by a hedge. Perfect and in the nick of time and I pull over before I reach the "absolutely soaking wet" parody of the Weather Girls. My daughter eyes me with faint disgust but is resigned to the vagaries of her mother's temperamental bladder by now and I see in her eyes a silent note never to become her mother, not ever! Watch carefully young lady, for here be monsters, whether you like it or not…

I cross the road quickly and duck into the field. It really is the perfect location, a loo with a view, I note smugly as I hurry across the rough clods towards the hedge. It's rough scrub, piles of sticks and bracken growing. I pick a spot and with a quick check around I undo my jeans and drop down to… well surely detail at this point is quite unnecessary, you get the picture, when out of the corner of my eye I see a movement. I snap my head around and see a black snake rearing up to strike just about 2 ft away from me!

"Dear Fucking God you Bastard what the Fucking Fuck?!" roughly what I thought as I simultaneously leapt and redressed in the nanosecond before it struck out. Now just how a disabled middle aged crouching woman who was desperate to wee managed to move faster than… well faster than a racing snake is truly beyond logic but thankfully that is what happened. I did manage to get a damn good look at the snake which meant that I was later able to identify it as a Black Adder, only the rarest snake in the whole of the UK! Lucky old me, not. Have I mentioned I have a snake phobia? No? Well I do, and I still had an overwhelming urge to pee and a heart thumping fear of a hidden snake foe. My life is such fun sometimes, the dilemmas. I did the only sensible thing left and went into the middle of the field not caring who could see me. 

There is no dignity to Black Adder Slack Bladder

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Being Lost

I am blessed with many things in life. A beautiful daughter who amazes me every day and frankly leaves me wondering how I ever managed to produce such a marvel (even when I am forced to pick up so many dirty clothes before I can even see carpet in her bedroom!) The wonder of this shiny little being (ok teenangster) with her life and it's infinite possibilities stretching out before her gladdens my weary cynical old heart. I digress, this and other blessings aside, a sense of direction is something that I am simply not in possession of.

I am not entirely useless though, oh no, I can read a map, quite well as it happens although I do appear to have reached that point in life when the print appears to have been made to an irritatingly small scale to be read effectively only by the very young or those clutching those magnifiers which are advertised in the rather annoying plethora of excess of supplementary magazines that accompany the weekend newspapers nowadays *shakes fist*.  No I will not succumb to one of those! So to sum up, I get lost quite a lot. I have learnt to think creatively about this conundrum and I would like to impart the wisdom that I have gained from having to live with this frustrating annoyance. 

When you find yourself 'lost', it is most important to tell yourself that you are not, in fact, 'lost', you are instead providing yourself with an opportunity to see things that you would otherwise have missed.

There - it really is that simple. I have seen so many exciting things that I would have otherwise have missed that I have come to consider being lost as a really quite exciting thing sometimes, actually something to be embraced. I have seen boxing hares, swooping sparrow hawks, frolicking foxes, well you get the picture. I have come across picnic spots that I've managed to later revisit, with a picnic! I've stumbled across rare plants and secret stashes of chanterelle mushrooms (I couldn't possibly tell you where they were…no really, I can't bloody well remember!) In a more urban setting I've seen amazing architecture and been able to marvel about how on earth they could have built such a complex design without the benefit of modern machines and mourn the loss of such skilled workers.  I've observed people and their elaborate rituals as they go about the daily grind, so revealing and quite distracting from the pressing problem of being lost. 

So all in all it's all about adjusting your attitude to the situation - I think there may be a lesson there that could be relevant to the rest of my life if only I could extrapolate the meaning… This ability probably irritates the hell out of my family and friends but I feel it adds to my inability to be able to navigate my way out of a paper bag. I actually actively seek it out nowadays by deliberately taking little lanes which are unknown to me.  I urge you to try it, to see the things that you may otherwise miss, you just never know what it is that you may see along the way.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Its Been a Long Long Time...

Well it has been a very long time since I created this blog with the intention of posting regularly, however life has a ubiquitous way of taking over and that is exactly what has happened to this rather sorry middle aged blogger whose intentions were good. I suppose that my report might read, 
"Must try harder."
 Having spent a little time with this blog today, and having given it a little facelift ~ What the hell made me choose purple as a background colour?! Was I on drugs? Actually yes I was…prescription ones - no doubt a post will eventually enlighten you ~ I do intend to write a post a little more often, after all, I still have so many amusing stories that I need to tell to you  Situations that I have found myself in where my internal shit magnet has been switched to high and extraordinary things have happened that really you just simply couldn't make up.  

I will try to dress these snippets up in entertaining language and present them to you for your delight or horror or just complete disbelief, depending on the story. I may become distracted along the way by some little gem which I feel that I must share with you, so do bear with me if you find yourself reading this. Feel free to comment, but do remember that you are not contractually obliged to read anything that you find here or linked to @woozlehound on Twitter, I would like to think that you are here out of your own free will.

So to conclude, I am back in the house/room/whatever and my faculties appear to be intact. Well hurrah for that and anyone reading this, welcome to the mad and increasingly menopausal phase of life that I now find myself living. Things are good for Woozle - and I hope that I am not making rash promises that I cannot keep when I promise to entertain you with tales from a miscreant life.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bonked by a Bullock

Today I thought I would regale you with an amusing tale from a long long time ago. I spent most of my years of growing up at an all girls boarding school. When I did come home for the holidays, I would disappear up to a local farm, where, in exchange for extremely hard work, I was allowed to ride some rather lovely horses. My favourite horse was Goose. She was part thorough bred and part Irish Draught with fine feathers around the fetlocks. She was a grey mare (white for the uninitiated) maybe the original Grey Goose - or perhaps not.

The lady that I worked for was a tough taskmaster and my duties were not confined to the stables, and the farm had an eclectic assortment of other animals. There were a few cows, some geese, ducks and arising from the cows at one time a shed with some young bullocks in it. The bullocks were always a little lively and in their shed they had two areas, one for sleeping which was on deep litter (layered straw that was allowed to accumulate) making the low roof rather low if you were tall, as I am, when you were trying to tie in a fresh hay net filled with the sweet smell of summer. The other area was much larger and allowed the bullocks to move about freely and before anyone gets upset, the bullocks were only kept in during the coldest spells of weather. I used to wash down and sweep the bare floored area first. 'then I would go into their 'bedroom' clearing out the most prolific amounts of poop, before scattering some lovely fresh straw. Then I would refresh the water, and the last job was tying in a freshly filled hay net.

On this particular day, I was just finishing and performing my final task with the bullocks, tying in the hay net. Due to the floor level, I had to stoop slightly and all of a sudden I felt this crushing weight! Slightly stunned I then noticed a hoof over each shoulder. Half a ton of young bullock was doing his best to shag me! Although this is extremely funny, I was actually in quite a dangerous position. I knew if I went down I was in danger of being trampled by a sexually aroused bullock. Fortunately, I was able to heft him off and escape. 

I was pretty shaken but even I exploded with laughter as I was checked over and hoof shaped bruises were found on my shoulders! I wonder - is there anyone else out there with a similar tale? Somehow I doubt it.