Monday, 29 August 2011

The joy of piles

I did a lot of community work on the phone last night: reaching out to the victims of crime, the elderly, the confused - I know I don’t have to, but you can't stop the love, it's just who I am. I also narrowly avoided a hospital admission following an episode of the Big Bang Theory which made me laugh so much I was crying hysterically with laughter and wasn't sure whether I was going to be able to stop or breath properly ever again. I blame my mother. So yes, the BBT continues to be my favourite new thing and I am now a quarter way through season 2 with season 3 on order. I imagine I will either relapse or prolapse by the end of season 4 and have to watch season 5 from the safety of a 'facility'.

To break up an evening of giving and laughter I sandwiched in a series of organisational domestic activities. These included a whites wash and a full and frank discussion with my 3 drawers worth of jeans, slacks and occasionals.

Jean after trouser after cargo pant, lots far too big, and many involving a questionable decision, fashion low point or regretted sale impulse. So I got them all out. They were all in good nick as I had already done a dross purge not so long previously. I identified three piles. Pile one - far too big, pile 2 - a size too big and pile 3 - fashion and size appropriate - just right for today's go get generation.

Pile 3 went straight back in the drawer but was usefully reviewed as it highlighted that there was a brand spanking new pair of jeans I had completely forgotten about. I do so like to have one pair of dark, crisp, new jeans which remain unworn for those break glass in emergency - I must look good this evening, but no time to shop situations. There are few occasions where you can't look good with a dark pair of crisp new jeans, a sharp pressed shirt, a blazer, some spit and polish on your boots, a dab of Gucci behind the ear and a smile. Drinks party, theatre, lunch with the boys or the girls, a date or just a shopping trip to the smarter side of town. Anyway I digress (my default position as usual).

Pile 2 - was quickly reviewed and 2 pairs of the best lookers were retained in case my scales break and I get one of the in between occasions - and the others went on the charity pile.

Pile 3 - now this should have been the easiest pile to decide upon, but is actually where the most trouble was to be had. All were far too big, like clowns trousers, but I found myself looking at each and every one of them and having the following conversation (with myself):

Me: They're far too big
Me: I know, but they're nice
Me: But clown trousers aren't in this lifetime
Me: I know, but they're nice
Me: You didn't wear any of them when they fitted you!
Me: I know, but they're nice
Me: They don’t fit you and you've never worn them
Me: But what happens if my scales break and I have an in-between occasion
Me: Well then we'll get you some new trousers which fit both your body and socially accepted style norms
Me: Ok

So basically most of my clothes have now gone to charity. I just can't stop the giving - it's like a drug to me. And it opens up a whole new vein to be pumped full of my other drug of choice - shopping for new clothes. 

But it hasn't stopped there - I've still got a vestibule full of outsize coats to go through next as well as an archive of previously unwearable tailored delights which should now fit. Autumn / Winter / Spring here I come. Today Littlewoods, tomorrow Monte Carlo!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

In the beginning

In the beginning there was an eye patch - or as they are called these day an eye pad. There were cowlicks, a seventies style void filled with manmade hand me downs, there were tortoise shell NHS specs, and there were fish fingers, mash and peas.  (Well actually in the very beginning there was a stripy sausage, num num and  nim nim but more on that in the 2nd pressing perhaps.)

Later came Snantneys (otherwise known as St Anthony’s), swimming, buck teeth, Cornettos, bicycles, Rise and Shine and Adrian, not necessarily in that order and still with the cowlicks and the NHS specs.

So I had cowlicks, I had specs, I had nasty knitwear and I was fed, but how did I get about? Even fashion orphans need wheels. Well, though I was only 3 I did in fact have a very flash car indeed, which went by the moniker of ‘Tommy Rally’.

Tommy Rally was a very special racing car, with a very special chauffeur. Although I liked to think that I was the driver, I was really only the passenger, although most definitely the back seat driver (Royal blood don’t you know). The real driver, pit manger, fuel attendant and mechanic, nose blower and ice cream buyer was Clare, (Great) Aunty Clare. 

Tommy had quite a thirsty engine and I would regularly direct Clare to top him up with petrol. This would usually take place at the filling station by the hedge of no. 26.

The sketchy stories I have been able to piece together about Clare, mostly from my Mother, spotlight a life of highs and lows with a key final position as my chief assistant and team Tommy manager. She had been a housekeeper in fashionable swanky hotels in central London through and after the war. She had been married, her surname was Hastings, and had a son Kenneth, who she had to give up. He came looking for her later in life but was shooed away by her family - probably my Gran - Clare’s sister, so they never reunited. It was all a very sad tale, and so no wonder she liked a drink.

When she came to Leamington in later life, pretty much without anything I think, looking after me filled a void, gave her something to do, and distracted her from the Gordons. 

Mrs Franklin’s

In the mornings I went to Nursery. Mum was working in Birmingham forging signatures for a charity trying to help young ladies up the duff not go the termination route, but instead provide them with jobs and homes, leaflets on marriage and priority access to nuns. We had many such young ladies come and live with us throughout my youth and they were all lovely. One, Carol, her mum used to do the hairdressing on the Carry On films!  Patsy was a model, Laura had a lovely son Daniel and a guitar or was it an accordion, Margie was Irish, very tall, and had the straightest long hair, Suzie had bleach blond hair with black roots, platforms and smoked. She came to Widemouth with us I happily recalled when I was there last year.

My only real memory of Mrs Franklin’s was of being ‘evacuated’ to a hall in Trinity Street and having milk and biscuits in a line, in beautiful sandals. Although as with most things this might all be down to false memory syndrome, ‘you in a wood in a hood’, and be based on a photograph I may have seen of one of the others when they were at nursery. But suffice to say I have never required the services of a therapist in order to deal with my time there, and although I have no real memories apart from the afternoons, I believe it all to have been warm and appropriate, with lots of colouring outside of the lines and tissue paper glued onto sugar paper. I don’t remember any of the other kids, although I do remember two friends from that time who could have been from there or they could have been the kids of people Dad worked with or played golf with. One was Victoria Selby, who lived in Landsdowne Crescent and had a red plastic tomato with ketchup in which I remember thinking was the height of advancement and excitement. We probably didn’t have ketchup at the Gables as it was a bit ITV. I don’t remember anything else about her. The other person is Charles Budd. Again I can only remember one thing about him, and that was being in the back of mum’s car - Triumph Toledo I think, and he wouldn’t stop talking. My early onset impatience had obviously taken to tire of this and I uttered the immortal line, repeated by my Mother ad infinitum for years, hence the clear memory, ‘You are too speaking Charle Spud.’ Bless. 

FYI - this gorgeous child I write of was referred to later in life by my sister Mary as ‘rat on a string’ but I imagine I was wearing a bright jumper and looked half presentable following bath night. ‘You were lovely when you were asleep’ I was oft told.

The afternoons

Now the afternoons were the jewel in the crown. Aunty Clare would pick me up from Nursery and we would go the 300 yds back to her flat in Bertie Terrace. There she would finish preparing lunch,  and we would wait for Gran to come back from mass. Then we world sit at the big table me in the middle, Gran to my left and Aunty Clare to my right and we would have, thank the lordy lord, always and everyday and without fail we would have fish fingers, mash and peas. And I think for pudding it might have been tinned fruit and cream (carnation). All served on blue Beryl.

After lunch we would go to the Dell, which was a sunken garden, more like a hidden valley in the middle of town, where there were swings. Why were swings such nectar of the Gods, the holy grail of activity? We would then traverse, all in Tommy Rally I think, but again, that might have been earlier and some of these journeys might have been on foot, to the post office for sweets - cherry drops are pleasantly burnt in my memory. We would then get a bus, yes a bus, to the Parish Church - Anglican but we asked for the other menu. From there we would meander to the Jeffs and gardens (also known as the Jephson Gardens). Here was a magical world of adventure and intrigue. As a toddler it was as big as a theme park and the rides were just as various and mind blowing. Oh my, what fun. There was the stone fountain, which allowed for paddling in the hot weather, there was the drinking fountain where you could get a drink (strange that), there was a mausoleum stylee building with a statute of some old bloke (Mr Jeffs And I believe) there were box hedges in squares with park benches in between which acted as my house/office, there were animals - parrots and bunnies, all in great Victorian animal houses, there was a lake with huge dancing fountains and ducks to feed,  there was a clock tower, and a clock flower bed,  there was a huge glass cafĂ© which sold ices and minerals, there was a mammoth tree with branches snaking down to and across the ground which made them easy to climb even for mini adventurers, and importantly there were ice creams - rectangles of ice cream in rectangular cones. Oh the joy and the excitement, the exhilaration and the fun. My heart is racing just remembering it all which means the joy must be deep etched in my subconscious.

It was a world of adventure and exploration and Clare and I made the most of it, as often as possible. The gardens were split both by level and by a lovely iron bridge, brightly painted blue with a mesmerising weir you could lean through the bridge and watch as the water passed from the lakes down to the pump rooms and the river Leam. On the other side of the bridge were the mystical and far away swings of Mill Gardens. We didn’t venture there too often, it was another world and ‘miles away’.

Once back in the flat the afternoon had other delicious routines. First of all there was treasure. Aunty Clare had a great big treasure chest filled with lots and lots of treasure (old cigar box with a few trinkets in) which we would go through like pirates examining the day’s spoils. Then there was the musical box, which I still have! A glorious red lacquered box from Singapore I believe which played ‘Comin’ through the Rye’. I would happily wind this up and listen to it over and over again. All these bacchanalian treats, adventuring and discovery would finally tire out this intrepid explorer, who would settle down for a nap on the bed in the sitting room which was topped by a firm green cover so it looked like a sofa without a back rather than a bed, with ‘hundreds’ of bright yellow satin cushions. A lambs wool cardigan would be placed over me which smelt sweetly of Clare and I would rest, while she had a B&H and maybe a sneaky G&T. My Gran would also take a nap in her room so it was probably golden time for Clare.

Then it was back home and to the madness of the family - my other life. But the secrets and the treasures of my afternoon with Clare would come round again, tomorrow whilst the others were back at school, and mum and dad were back at work. The magic would be played out once more and further adventures would be had and more fish fingers and ice creams would be eaten. Oh the sweet joy!

Monday, 15 August 2011

A packet of my cigars please Rita

Someone was trying to talk to me in tongues as I entered the tube station. It is no more than I am used to after 21 years of living in South London, at five addresses (only one of them but doors down from Joanna Lumley mind).

It is early I know but I am travelling first class and I wanted to be able to make the most of my complimentary Daily Telegraph. What I miss above all else when not travelling first class, is the hot towels and the array of non-recyclable requisites all individually wrapped. All my travel dreams are sponsored by Maxpax and Traveller's Fare don't you know.

My word, although I did live round the corner for a year and studied round the corner for 3, I had quite forgotten how manic the gateway to the north, otherwise known as Euston station, was. So I have scurried away to the first class lounge for some hand poured refreshment, self-serve refinement and a smile from a girl behind a very high counter. I think her job is, I hope it is, to keep out the riff raff. She’d have come in handy when the ferals were loose last week. (On second thoughts it could always be a normal height counter with her on a very low chair)

Lots of studious quiet people tip tapping on their non windows based lap tops, so I’m going to try and look like a famous author. If only I was wearing a cravat! If anyone approaches I’ll bamboozle them with my Man Booker shortlist stats. ‘Did you know that Dorothy Wordsworth was the only woman from Cockermouth not to be shortlisted between 1604 and 1967?

Blend right in – that’s the secret.

I think some of my fellow travellers must be from the north as a couple of them are dressed in casual clothes. I’ve hired a morning suit for the occasion – traveling first class in casual clothes – what piffle! I’ve just seen a man across the aisle using a biro – I may have to call the guard!

Everyone in my carriage is having con gas – such a bond - a shared love of sparkling water. I do hope these dainties are organic, and there’s still no sign of the fruit I was promised in the brochure!

I’m sitting opposite a very handsome man, I think he might be a second division football player - he’s got a very large bag and delicious forearms. I wonder whether he’d like to start a family. I might ask him if it gets a bit warmer. He does appear quite fertile, but you can’t always tell when they’re sat down.

You certainly can’t fault the British countryside – complimentary fruit or no complimentary fruit - absolutely beautiful. Narrow boats at every turn, hills and sheepes. Oh dear I knew it wouldn’t last, I’ve just seen a car park full of caravans and a sewage works.

Ah well here we are Manchesterford. I must hot foot it to Rosamund Street before last orders to see whether Stella Rivers is still Landlady at the Flying Horse.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Velvet Goldmine

I’ve been acquainted with novelists who’ve published several volumes of memoires in less time than I spend between blogs. But I suppose it is quality over quantity, which is a shame as that means me, and therefore you lose on both accounts.

So to what great honour does the planet owe the joy of an episode from the Godwin Chronicles?  Well I do have a lot to say, it’s just I'm very bad at getting around to saying it. It is my gift to you of course and I should give you one more often I know.

I’m drawn to the pen following a riotous week, a golden find, an absent friend and a great, great loss.


I was telling one of the neighbours (unmarried) the other night about the legendary evening Eartha Kitt touched my face - in Brixton, at the Daisy Chain. The reason I had Eartha and heady nights misspent in Brixton fresh in mind was because I had been delving deep into my velvet archive (I’m very supple these days) and had come across a most wonderful find.

A diary, and I’ve kept diaries on and off over the years, but this one had been kept over a number of very special years - 1995 (AD) to 2000. Now these years eagerly represent my first prime. The fall and decline of the much chronicled marriage to the second Mrs Godwin through to taking the keys to my first owner occupied garden duplex and the dawn of the noughties. What was as interesting as the gems within, were the pages of life I hadn't even bothered to crank up the solid state for at all. But what was there was golden – shocking at times, exhausting often, some upsetting, some enlightening, but all golden. A veritable velvet goldmine.

I had been spurred on by one of my dearest and most Gloriaous overseas correspondents who had been reviewing her own diaries in order to put some facts straight in a forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster she is writing for me to star in. I thought, well, I could give a few opening gambits worthy of a producers sniff - so let's see what I can find. And did I ever find.

I had to sit down in a darkened room for 36 hours with only Dolly fanning me for company and a bottle of Wincarnis zero for sustenance. But as I recovered and I re read, I laughed and I cried, and I blushed with shame and excitement.

Let's just say that I was amazed at the stamina the young have for intimacy and over exuberance. Most of it seems to revolve around getting drunk, snogging men, making bad decisions regarding men, getting over men, meeting more men, laughing (heads thrown back), drinking some more, going out with Ade, blagging our way into clubs and private views, moving house, hating my job, getting mentioned in autobiographies, going to Duckie, drinking, dashing between auditions, international singing sensations, espionage, more drink and the thing I was best at above all else - smoking, lots and lots of smoking. Smoking and red wine - like blood and air to me.

And the choices and decisions – oh my! The 42 (looks 32) year old me was screaming at the computer, exasperated at the judgements I made - about men. Nearly all of them were bad, but not all of them, and there was certainly lots of fun had making the mistakes and a few jewels in between. Every tale ended with 5 trademark words ‘And we were so drunk!’ But God bless Mr Hall though for entertaining and taking care of me through thick and thin.

So what else? Oh yes, well we’ve been plagued by the feral underclasses. There’s nothing to be said that hasn’t already apart from the fact that I did sleep with a bucket of water by the front door and a big stick by the bed! And I will be voting for whichever party agrees to bring back flogging the fastest.

Moving on.

Health and fitness as some of you already know, has been very close to my heart since the spring. I’ve been on this friggin’ diet but it has paid off. 1700 calories a day, and I’ve lots 35lbs, look 20 years (months) younger and can once again fit into my figure skating glitter and sash velcro combo. It feels like a minor miracle, and I am most pleased. But bigger than that, I’ve gone and given up the booze! You know I haven’t even noticed it, and have certainly not missed it, apart from the wine calories I’ve shed and the wine £s I’ve been able to divert to new wardrobe expenses. And not one single hangover for 4 and a half months – lovely.

So I do need some new vices, and some of my advisers have suggested I get back in the ‘swing of it’ but really at my age? My years of damp patches and missed periods are over, surely. So what then? Maybe I should make Sophia happy and finally write that novel! If I do, I promise you’ll all be in it, and we’ll all be played by much younger people in the biopic.

I thought I best try and get fit now that I’ve lost the poundage. So I dusted off my trusty Wii fit ™, recharged the batteries and slipped into a t-shirt and, well I was just in my pants actually – steady ladies. So I step on, and the cheeky fucker says it’s been 485 days since your last visit, but my, haven’t you lost weight! I didn’t know you were supposed to go on it more than once. Adrian says I should chuck it in the bin and have a wine, but I think I'll Percy Veer. Well I don't get out much.

Look, that’s quite enough of that; I’ve kept you all up long enough.

In other news – there’s still no word on my WI membership application! Men!