Tuesday, 12 February 2019

ANTIGUA CALLING. FEBRUARY 2019. SOUTHPOINT HOTEL.

Darling Froika,

The silence had become almost deafening but I am just as much to blame as anyone.   Apologies.




It was good to hear all your news and I am pleased that you are all up to no good somewhere on this poor benighted planet.

We are living the life of stranded sailors on a desert island, sun, sea, no drink to speak of, and a lot of tinkling tin drums and drunken yachties who live it up in the bar every night.

The hotel is ideal and right on the water’s edge, the marina in front of us.   You will see from the pics that we look out onto billions of pounds worth of floating gin palaces.   I looked Siren up on the internet the other day out of a morbid sense of nosiness and wondering how long I would have to save my monthly stipend before I could afford a month sailing the high seas in the lap of luxury.

The answer was that not only would I have to sell everything I own, including my body down the sunny side of Jermyn Street, live to be one hundred and fifty,  and even then I would not have enough!   Three hundred and fifty six thousand pounds per week plus 50% on top for tips for the crew, gas, harbour dues, etc. etc.   The irony is that I used to know the owners, the Reuben brothers.   They were scrap metal dealers in their first incarnation.   As mother used to say, “Where there’s muck, there’s money”!

We watch the comings and goings from dawn to dusk and marvel as the captains manoeuvre these behemoths into berths no bigger than a space for a car.   They deserve every penny they get because a collision between two of these mothers would probably cost a cool million to repaint!

Yesterday a Trimaran arrived and as there was no space at the official boom, they grabbed a space on our dock and busily got down to working on some problem they seemed to be having with one of the hulls.   As befits a nosey old broad who thinks she knows a bit about boats I sauntered down to find out about their problem.   The boat was so large it looked as though it might have been an America’s Cup Challenger and had Masserati written all over it.   I didn’t discover much as the crew didn’t speak a word of English but answered me in perfect Italian.   Of course I showed off my language skills and then slunk home.

We have a beautiful, Armani-ish room big enough to play football in.   Needless to say we left our ball in London and just lie around the pool criticising the other fat residents!   Actually we seem to have the whole place to ourselves as everyone goes out and dices with death on the Antiguan roads and the locals high on ganja.   Experience tells me that at our age we are better off frying to a crisp than gathering road rash on the potholes of the island.   The roads are worse than in Italy If that is possible!

On the subject of football Rowie!!!!!






 




We are both well but miss our friends.   We seem to have been away from the farm for far too long.   Our other friends who are animal sitting say the weather is barmy and all is calm and collected so I think I will lean back, have another glug of rum and worry about everything tomorrow.

Turnip, that is a beautiful photograph of you and Rolando.   Could I have a copy please.

You both look like sun kissed teenagers!   Victoria, I don’t like the sound of another ailment.   I will look it up on the net and get back to you.

You will be thrilled to hear that you made me feel so guilty that I have been putting pen to paper, or fingers to computer, for two hours a day and the tome is growing.   All I need now is an editor!!!   It has helped, being back on the island where it all happened.

My only ailment is not being able to keep my mouth closed!!   I make the same promises to myself daily that I will not eat too much and then I go to bed feeling full and guilty.   Maybe at my age I should just give up and eat and enjoy.   For seventy-six years I have been on a constant diet and it has made not one bit of difference to my shape.   I think we are born with the body we are destined to die with whatever we do to keep the pounds under control.

I swim twenty lengths every day, miss breakfast, have a light lunch, no dinner but in between seem to find my way to the chocolate drawer as it calls to me.   Chocolates should be made illegal along with all sugar products, or produced without the ability to speak, then perhaps I would lose weight.   

Anyway who cares what we look like, at my age I am totally invisible whatever my weight!!!   The other day I wrote a letter of some complexity to the general manager of our hotel and at breakfast this morning he accosted Aziz in the restaurant to discuss our problem, with me standing by his side in full view.   He completely ignored me and decided he would sort the problem out man to man.   

Me Too hasn’t reached Antigua yet.

Click to Download
IMG_0145.mov
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I send love to all of you and cannot wait for a debrief back at the ranch around mid March.

Kisses,

Jeanx

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

IN MEMORY OF A DEAR FRIEND

FABIO'S FUNERAL


FABIO’ S FUNERAL.    8TH FEBRUARY, 2015   
PERGO. 11.00 AM

On the drive to our friend’s funeral Aziz dropped the information that he had never been to a funeral before in his life except to our friend Normie’s  in London a couple of months before.   I was in Italy so couldn’t go but probably wouldn’t have gone anyway.   My son and husband represented me and although I felt a little guilty and received the wrong side of a lot of my friend’s tongues, I still like to remember him as he was smiling and telling jokes, not lying dead in a coffin about to be burned.

On thinking about it I had only been to one funeral in 71 years 0f life.   Is it because none of our friends die, or our distaste for the sadness of the occasion!?   

The Fraser family have never been into funerals but tend to like to remember the deceased as they were when upright and breathing, and as we have never been church goers, have always felt it to be a little two-faced to suddenly go to the house of God and call on all his powers to help our loved one through the Pearly Gates.

The one funeral  I did go to was a friend of mine who actually died in my arms.   Larger than life and from the deep South, an American art dealer who had brokered the deal for Alan Bond for The SunFlowers and Irises.   He gave himself the title of Lord, lived in a big house in Chelsea, converted to the Catholic Faith, went to tea with Father Ignacious  head of the Catholic church in London, took drugs, was bi-sexual and who drank himself to death pretending that his tea was made of herbs.   It may have a few herbs in it but they weren’t health giving and the rest was Tanqueray gin.

His funeral lasted two hours, was high camp and full of bells and smells.   I still miss him.

Today, our dear friend Fabio’s funeral took one hour but meant more to me than all the high church rubbish that Billy’s funeral had comprised.

We arrived in Pergo at a small local church and a smattering of  acquaintances in the car park.   We signed the book of condolences, we sobbed on each other’s shoulders and spoke sadly in pidgin English and Italian to the locals we knew.   There was no need for words.   We knew we had just lost one of the best and most loyal of friends.

Close to the hour advertised for the start of the funeral we entered the doors to find the whole church bursting with people and our friends’ coffin covered in white lilies.   
Suddenly I was unable to see anything that wasn’t surrounded with a hazy blur of tears.   My heart ached as I remembered  the fun we had had with this sturdy, strong blacksmith, master barbeque-er and all round wonderful, down to earth man.   If you meet one such person in your life, you are blessed.

After the first introduction by the Priest taking the service, dressed in all his finery, invited people standing in the aisle were to take some seats that were vacant behind the altar, probably where when there is a choir, they would sit.

I found myself walking towards the alter, past my friend in the coffin, and suddenly I had a front row seat, looking back at the assembled friends and family.   I hadn’t planned this but I thank God (!!!), for arranging it.

We had met Fabio through Hessi who had worked for us for some years interpreting and generally helping us to establish ourselves in our new life in Italy and the two had slowly good friends and for me Fabio was my rock while Aziz was away.   The fact that he lived over the hill and had given me his VIP mobile number was enough to make me feel safe at night.

Hessi has been with Fabs for about six years and although he was difficult at times, she loved him and on his death bed had married him.    She married him at seven in the evening in Arezzo hospital and he died at 1.30 the following morning.   That is probably the quickest marriage either the Commune of Arezzo has arranged or any new wife has experienced.   She appeared yesterday to pick something to wear to the funeral and we gave her a wedding ring, something nobody had thought about at the time.

When asked if he would take her hand in marriage, he struggled with his last three words, “Yes, with pleasure”.

Looking back at the congregation that morning I saw a sea of friends painting a heart-rending picture of grief.   Fabio’s mother and father, old, frail and past grief but there to see their only son buried.  Two people Broken by death after fifty years of caring.   

Behind them Hessi, the new Mrs. Fallini with a friend holding her upright.   A monochrome picture of the local community all mourning their lost brother.   His best friend the vet, Antonio, hardly able to speak when I approached him, his posse of girl-hunting friends from his youth, all in a state of shock as the joker of the group lay in front of them cold, no longer able to laugh and joke with them.

The Fat Priest droned on and I prayed (!!!) that he would stop and let this forlorn group go home and cry in peace.

A beautiful young girl with red hair wearing a white surplus and Ugg boots sat in front of me and next to the Priest, picking her nails.   She had heard this ceremony too often for one so young.   From time to time she got up and tinkled a few bells, one of the only pretty moments of the whole ceremony, sat down again and continued fiddling.

I noticed a dog bowl under the alter and wondered where the dog had gone.   Fabio loved dogs and was leaving three of them behind at home.   He would have loved a dog at his funeral.

Looking to my left behind the drapery backing the alter it seemed this was where all the detritus of the last fifty years was kept.   

A friend of Fabio’s on my right put his arm through mine and smiled pulling me upright, we all were crying.   Paolo Artista was openly weeping and put his other arm through mine on the other side.   

I think to steady themselves as much as to comfort me.  












On the Priest droned on.  He lit his handbag and wafted it around causing everyone to start a chorus of coughing, he even read out a list of the future events to be held at the church for the next two weeks!!   

Finally he finished his litany and although I had understood very little of his lengthy speech in Italian, I wished he had felt more compassion for the grieving family and let them go home without putting them on such a lengthy wrack.  

We were let out into the sunshine of the morning to mingle and to say our goodbyes to the coffin and watch as his poor mother held on to the hearse as it drove away.

Heart wrenching.   

Goodbye dear friend.

Sleep well.




Wednesday, 21 November 2018

EYES RIGHT!   EYES WRONG!

Those of us who have been lucky enough to reach a ripe old age without serious medical problems take our faculties for granted.

I am ashamed to say that I seem to have taken my eye sight for granted as if it was a natural gift .   I am now 76 I realise it can go wrong.   

My mother had glaucoma and gradually into her ninety five year practically lost all sight.   She complained quietly about the sun being low in the winter months, she began to wear croupiers shades which raised a few laughs from her kith and kin with remarks of where are you going Mother, Las Vegas?   And her sons and daughters remember taking her to the eye man for ever stronger glasses, but still it never resonated that that was how we were going to deteriorate in later life!

As offspring we were advised to test our eyesight regularly as the gene that causes glaucoma is carried by the female side.   This done I thought as long as I took the pills everything would work out fine and I would have perfect eyesight until they lowered me into the earth or fire where being able to see would be alarming to say the least.

I am married into a family who have genetically been skewed in the eye department and my husband and his sister basically have only sight out of one eye.    They cope very well but need constant supervision by good eye physicians but even being aware of their constant problems did not make me worry about losing my sight!  

Natures' way of saying don't worry until you really need to?

Now my eyes are letting me down and I am really cross!

How dare I say that having had perfect vision for 75 years?   I am not sure but I really am cross.

Days now are mostly taken up with looking for glasses hidden on my head or occasionally even in my hand!   Attempting to insert contact lens into eyes that fight back, or pouring in complicated prescriptions to increase the possibility of seeing for a few more years.

Sunlight becomes a problem.   Too little light when reading is a problem.   Going to feed the horse at night with a torch is a problem.   Too much sunlight or none at all is a big problem.   Going to a restaurant and forgetting both contact lens and glasses is a problem as one tends to order the wrong thing or go home hungry if ones spouse isn't there to share their magnification.

Driving is going to become a problem but don't tell the authorities.   I recently had to renew my licence in Italy and at 75 they test you as though you should have been buried for at least ten years prior to your meeting the examiner.   My requested photograph was taken with me wearing my distance glasses but I forgot them when turning up for the examination!!   Another problem I will expand on in my later blog, and a stoney faced gentleman with VERY thick glasses proclaimed that as I had arrived for a driving test without my glasses and had probably driven there, then I should be able to take the test without my glasses.

Men are like that in Italy!!

Mad as hell he then put me through a reading test off the wall and off text on my lap for ten minutes and every time I made a mistake he heaved a sigh of annoyance.   Feeling sure I was about to be failed I suggested I return with said glasses.

Sighing again as if i had kicked him somewhere tender he said he didn't have time to wait, stamped my licence and charged me 180 euros.  

It's the deficit stupid.

One of the worst problems of dementia and failing eyesight is however the inability to keep ones dignity in public places due to total confusion and too much sunlight.

Oh, and getting dressed when one wears too much black in order to appear slightly more svelt than one really is!!!

Yesterday not for the first time I went to the Coop feeling slightly fuller around the nether regions than normal even though I had been working out  for a couple of weeks.   Always in a hurry I had dressed and rushed to buy lunch.

I changed my muddy boots for a pair of slightly less muddy shoes and left in a hurry.   Hoping not to see anyone I knew I slapped my hat on my head and pushed my trolly as fast as possible through the aisles.   

The first acquaintance I saw was my husband's would be squeeze, the local beauty who owns and runs the local five star hotel, the second a very grown up Count.   

Everything seems on track as I pay my dues and exit said Coop and head at breakneck speed back to my car, dodging all the poor chaps with their hands outstretched for my trolley.

As I load my car I happen to look down and there, hanging from the bottom of my trousers out of one leg and dragging along the floor, are the remains of yesterday's tights.   I have failed to see them as they are black and the same colour as my clean trousers and as I am in a tearing hurry to get dressed and have overlooked them as they have remained in the legs of yesterdays pair.   Well, I understand even if you don't.

Bad eyesight can kill you in so many ways!

I am still wondering if anyone I met in the Coop that day recognises me as the lady with her tights around her ankles!  

I think they will as I remember after fifty years,  a lady walking in front of me in Carnaby Street whose large pink drawers suddenly appeared around her ankles and with total aplomb their owner just stepped out of them, stuffed them in her handbag and continued her shopping!

To this day I am impressed.   Hopefully anyone seeing me in the Coop will have equal admiration!!!


CASA LORETO.
21.11.18



Sunday, 5 August 2018

COUNTRY LIFE ARTICLE-(Not Sent)

CASA LORETO BOCENA 398 SAN MARTINO CORTONA AREZZO 52044
+39 0575 612683


Dear Ed, (The Editor of Country Life in England).


I eagerly await my weekly copy of COUNTRY LIFE here in Tuscany and smile at your articles and readers letters about their attempts to save wild life from the onward march of civilisation!
Having been brought up on a farm in Cornwall and then living for forty odd years in central London, we decided fourteen years ago to find somewhere less noisy and polluted. My husband wanted a flat in Portofino but we ended up with an olive farm in central Tuscany! Something to do with my argument about not living with people around me but animals instead.
He has never let me forget his wants as I grumble about the complexities of a life in a foreign country, running a thousand olive trees, large orchard, lake, horses, dogs, chickens, doves, ducks and a pair of Emperor geese!


Add to that the fact that Italian men do not like taking instructions from a female of the species, thinking they are only good for one thing and that at seventy this woman is not even useful for that pastime! Also the difficulty of learning a completely new language when one had failed O level French fifty five years ago, plus the fact that men here do not like to keep appointments and when they do turn up they do not feel a need to apologise for their tardiness. Especially as you know that it will take another five visits before they fix what they had originally been invited to mend in the first place!


Take it from me, it could fill a book but that has already been done, several times, and made into films and still they haven’t really shown Italy as it is living here and trying to stay sane on a day to day basis. You have top live here and been baptised by fire to truly understand.
Having said all that, I wouldn’t have changed the last years for all the boat trips in Portofino with film stars for the world.


What really makes me smile about your letters page is the wonderful, kind hearted people who diligently try to save wild life from humans who seem to be trying to kill off the planet. Here, I am trying to save the humans from the wildlife!!


Let me start with the pigs. Our property is way off the beaten track edging onto the forest which is where the cingali or wild boar live. Before we had any electric fences or gardens to speak of, we would think their visitations every evening of families of up to thirty pigs rootling around in the orchard was sort of wonderful. Now that we have rescued acres of wild ground, built kitchen gardens, etc., we think of them as a wretched nuisance and they have cost us thousands of pounds over the years building barricades to keep the buggers out! The big ones are wary now but the little ones in striped jumpers, squeeze underneath any electrified wire and dig around to their hearts content especially around the irrigated shrubs and lawns.

The hunters do kill them off in the winter but another solution has been found by the Commune, our local government. They have introduced wolves. I haven’t seen or heard one yet but a couple of years ago the local bar proudly pinned a dodgy photograph of a large wolf-like animal to the bar wall and we have been waiting for more hard evidence of their whereabouts ever since.

Now the stories are legion. One neighbour’s donkey foaled in her field quite close to the house in the nighttime and by morning just four baby hooves were found scattered around. A taxi driver’s wife kept half a dozen sheep in a paddock close to our town of Cortona. They were all killed. She replaced them and they were again killed and half eaten.
The thinking behind introducing wolves is that they will predate on the wild boar and give the farmers a break from the mayhem the pigs make of their fields. They may have just introduced another, more costly nightmare for the locals.

Added to this, we had a very nervous making clue that they were in our midst when our friend up the hill walking her elderly labrador one morning was stopped in her tracks by a growling and bristling of hair from her dog who was glaring at something up ahead. Three wolves, equally aggressively barred their way in the middle of the track. She hasn’t walked in the woods since!
Next, the deer. Well, everyone knows what deer do. They just eat everything, and kill poor young boys riding to work on their mopeds early in the morning by leaping over roads unexpectedly. So sad for both rider and deer.

Next, the porcupines!!! Big, black and bristling.
We are in the middle of a drought at the moment and all of nature’s creatures are descending from the hills in search of water. Of course a nicely irrigated farm with green lawns and a kitchen garden full of plump, ripening produce is a natural draw for any hungry animal.

I have caught a couple of porcupines in the past who have been causing trouble, and have taken them on a scenic drive to another desirable part of the countryside, but now we have a rogue monster who will not be deterred.

First he waited until my corn on the cob was just ready for eating and he pounced the day before I did. Mayhem! He didn’t even finish each cob but went for as many as he could ruin in one night. How did he get over the wall into the garden. Did you know that porcupines live up trees, or at least can climb as well as any cat? Well, we didn’t until my husband found videos on Utube to that effect.
We had also been told that they shoot their quills at any chasing dog or human. They don’t. They run ahead and then stop dead in front of the following assailant which then runs into the back of its prey and bingo, a pincushion!

When he returned he decimated the peas. Then the tomatoes the following night. For breakfast he ate my water melons and dug up my prize irises and ate them as a sweet. They love irises and I knew this so kept them in the walled garden for safety. They must be able to smell out the tubers.

He’s not too keen on potatoes. Too mundane. He likes something with a bit of sugar in it. Who doesn’t.

He has avoided all of my traps which have been baited with goodies and just shimmies in and out at will. He does leave me a few quills every night for my hats and when I go back to our flat in London I will take them to Philip Treacey for use in his millinery for the fine ladies of Belgravia.

The hunters do kill them off in the winter but another solution has been found by the Commune, our local government. They have introduced wolves. I haven’t seen or heard one yet but a couple of years ago the local bar proudly pinned a dodgy photograph of a large wolf-like animal to the bar wall and we have been waiting for more hard evidence of their whereabouts ever since.

Now the stories are legion. One neighbour’s donkey foaled in her field quite close to the house in the nighttime and by morning just four baby hooves were found scattered around. A taxi driver’s wife kept half a dozen sheep in a paddock close to our town of Cortona. They were all killed. She replaced them and they were again killed and half eaten.

The thinking behind introducing wolves is that they will predate on the wild boar and give the farmers a break from the mayhem the pigs make of their fields. They may have just introduced another, more costly nightmare for the locals.

Added to this, we had a very nervous making clue that they were in our midst when our friend up the hill walking her elderly labrador one morning was stopped in her tracks by a growling and bristling of hair from her dog who was glaring at something up ahead. Three wolves, equally aggressively barred their way in the middle of the track. She hasn’t walked in the woods since!

Next, the deer. Well, everyone knows what deer do. They just eat everything, and kill poor young boys riding to work on their mopeds early in the morning by leaping over roads unexpectedly. So sad for both rider and deer.

Next, the porcupines!!! Big, black and bristling.

We are in the middle of a drought at the moment and all of nature’s creatures are descending from the hills in search of water. Of course a nicely irrigated farm with green lawns and a kitchen garden full of plump, ripening produce is a natural draw for any hungry animal.

I have caught a couple of porcupines in the past who have been causing trouble, and have taken them on a scenic drive to another desirable part of the countryside, but now we have a rogue monster who will not be deterred.

First he waited until my corn on the cob was just ready for eating and he pounced the day before I did. Mayhem! He didn’t even finish each cob but went for as many as he could ruin in one night. How did he get over the wall into the garden. Did you know that porcupines live up trees, or at least can climb as well as any cat? Well, we didn’t until my husband found videos on Utube to that effect.
We had also been told that they shoot their quills at any chasing dog or human. They don’t. They run ahead and then stop dead in front of the following assailant which then runs into the back of its prey and bingo, a pincushion!


When he returned he decimated the peas. Then the tomatoes the following night. For breakfast he ate my water melons and dug up my prize irises and ate them as a sweet. They love irises and I knew this so kept them in the walled garden for safety. They must be able to smell out the tubers.
He’s not too keen on potatoes. Too mundane. He likes something with a bit of sugar in it. Who doesn’t.
He has avoided all of my traps which have been baited with goodies and just shimmies in and out at will. He does leave me a few quills every night for my hats and when I go back to our flat in London I will take them to Philip Treacey for use in his millinery for the fine ladies of Belgravia.

Next the raptors!!! They have taken all of my doves. Returning from London a few weeks ago I couldn’t think what was missing. A silent dove house, normally humming with life and a joy to behold as ten white doves dove in and out feeding their young or sitting on eggs. Now it stands silent and empty. Ghostly almost. The gardener said he thought that falcons had been visiting whilst the house was empty. I immediately visited the market the following week and bought a new pair of sparkling white birds and put them in a holding pen until I could introduce them to their new loft. The next morning was a scene of utter ghastliness. Three birds with their heads bitten off. Not eaten, just killed for the sake of killing. I suppose the guilty animal was a stoat or weasel. The empty house remains empty as I see a family of falcons visiting daily for breakfast.

I discovered they had also taken two baby chickens from the hen compound and two wonderful little Mandarin ducklings just three weeks old from the lake.

That will teach me to leave my animals to fend for themselves.

Frogs are the next pest we have. You notice that as I relive all this carnage that the local wildlife are now described as pests!!!

Frogs are protected the world over but these noisy amphibians have blighted our lives for five months of the year ever since we arrived.

I remember saying to the Swiss lady who sold us the property as we walked around, Oh good, you have frogs, remembering my youth of fishing around for frogspawn in our stream in Cornwall. I wondered why she gave me a sideways glance of horror.

When we finally moved in and prepared for sleep a slow croak became a cacophony of raucous mating cries which continued for the rest of the night. And the next night, and for fourteen years thereafter. It is impossible to sleep with windows open and we wouldn’t mind if the croaking was pleasant on the ears, but this is a downright ugly, rasping sound. Finger nails on blackboards type of sound. Spine chilling.

I won’t tell what we do to lighten our load as we would probably be prosecuted!!! Humans fight back against nature.

Did I mention the Rooks. Actually, probably Crows because there are a lot of them suddenly in our neck of the woods.

“If it’s a crow on it’s own, it’s a rook.

If its a rook with friends, they are crows”.

Every one of our mosquito nets covering the windows both in the house and in the cottage have been ripped to shreds by crows attacking their mirror images in the window panes. The woodpeckers have taken care of the wooden window surrounds so to cut it short, we need new windows and new mosquito nets!!!

The crows also have an upsetting, discordant cry. They are almost worse than the frogs.

Am I beginning to sound like a witch with grudge against nature?

Not for a minute am I against nature, I just wish it would give us humans a chance to live and breathe on their planet without such a grudge against us.

There a many nice animals and birds here but that is for another day. However, as I gathered the duck eggs this morning I happened to stand admiring the lake and out of nowhere flew a dagger of turquoise feathers. This little missile flew headfirst into the water and out again clasping a little piece of silver in its beak which it proceeded to bash the living daylights out of on the back of a bench.

He did this twice and his colourful image is still copied into my brain as I think of him.

By the way, have I mentioned the ants, snakes, mosquitoes, wild, farm bred cats, rats, et al? Well, okay I will stop here.

Jean Fraser-Cami 20th July, 2017 Cortona.
Photographs to be added.

FLY ME TO THE MOON!

"Did you have a good flight",  I heard my husband ask from the safety of his earthbound flat in London as I arrived back home in Italy.

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t whine yet again about my travails in the air but this one had taken the biscuit.

Talking of biscuits, I think she must have downed at least two family-sized packets!

I hate flying, and I hate flying even more when traveling alone. I need my husband’s arm to bury my nails into every time the driver goes over a bump and the thought that if I am going down then he won’t be left with nobody to grumble about.

The flight began to fill up and having found my aisle seat I see a woman mountain struggling up the aisle knocking unsuspecting passengers right and left back into their seats never to rise again. Before I could say oh heavens I pity the poor people she is going to overflow onto, she turns in my direction.

She is with an Italian mobster who takes up his position at the window and then she proceeds to squash herself between the two arm rests. An engineer will have to be called to straighten them later.

I meanwhile am standing waiting to retake my seat and then to start a lengthy game of “hunt the seatbelt”. You may have guessed where I found it. But after a great deal of effort up close and intimate with a perfect stranger!

In the meantime a couple and four kids under the eight sit in both rows directly behind us. Father opens his laptop and from there on he doesn’t look up but tells his wife to tell the kids to stop throwing their toys at each other and not to draw with felt tipped pens on the fuselage. Wifey takes no notice as she is deep into her glossies and the kids run riot.

My hungry traveling companion has by this time finished her first packet and the crumbs are gathering. The kids start their kicking games and Mobster is woken from his slumber and quietly threatens the rug rats behind him. I wait until it becomes painful and tell their father to do something. Without a beat he tells his Hermes eencrusted wife to tell the children to stop jumping on the seats and put down the laser pen.

Laredo then asks Mobster could get out to pee. Of course he could but why didn’t he go before we left the airport. We are only half an hour into our journey.

We do the seatbelt shuffle again when she returns and instead of going to the window seat and buckling up she plumps !! For the middle again. I quietly wonder how obstreperous is going to get in. You guessed of course.

During the whole flight this woman fished in her vast handbag firstly to seruptitiosly scoff a bag of toffees, next a packet of biscuits and in between to retrieve umpteen wet wipes to mop herself from head to toe. She leaked from every orifice! She cleaned her face, under her armpits, up and and down and places I couldn’t bare to imagine.

I thought it odd but she was very nice in the face of my indifference and bad tempered grunts and constantly apologised for disturbing me. I pretended to be reading and hardly acknowledged her except when I had to stick my hand up her bum to retrieve my safety belt.

The kicking continued and I thought Mobster was going to invade Iran he was so mad and I added my hate of all kids under the age of twenty and we settled down again.

This time Laredo wanted to get something out of the overhead locker. I guessed what it was as I had seen her personal spoon and fork in her handbag!! Tupperware for two is all I have to add.

Once consumed they then both announced a further trip up front!! I kid you not.

She came back, strapped herself in and told me to sit down ad he would be some time!!

More apologies and before I could stop my mouth from working I asked why she hadn’t booked an aisle seat!

She burst into tears. 

It turned out she was an editor on our major newspaper in England and was on her honeymoon!

I felt lower than a snake!

Thursday, 22 March 2018

BEWARE GIFTS IN SHEEPS CLOTHING!


LONDON.   MARCH, 18.

A WHITE ELEPHANT!




HURRAH FOR MICKEY!


As I took my very expensive Rolex watch to the menders for the umpteenth time yesterday, I was reminded of the two Maharajahs and their elephant.

These two vastly wealthy gentlemen had a long running grudge against each other until one day one of them thought of a way of settling the argument for good.

In India a white elephant is a sign of good luck and is empowered with super elephantine powers.   If it dies then the owner will have nothing but plague and pestilence for ever.

The Clever Maharajah bought such an animal and presented it to his enemy as an offering in an outward sign of bringing peace and tranquility and an end to all their hostilities.

The big white beast was duly marched into his enemies' stables and the Grateful Maharajah covered it with jewels, expensive livery and it was treated with much pomp and circumstance.

The elephant duly became sick and to ensure it lived the Grateful Maharajah spent all his money on keeping this animal alive fully realising that if it died then his empire was lost.

It did indeed die after a long and expensive illness.

The Clever Maharajah was jubilant.   His enemy was crippled and hence the saying, "It's just a white elephant".   Beautiful to look at but not much use!

Well, that is slightly how I now regard my Rolex watch!!

Since receiving it I have spent many hundreds of pounds trying to keep it ticking.   It has been back to the factory via Rolex at least twice, been to Switzerland via Italy several times, and now back in London it has been to a watch maker for the third time and every time I have paid a bill of over two hundred pounds.   Sometimes, seven hundred pounds.

A thousand pounds when it lost one of its diamonds!!!

I love my watch but am beginning to think of it as a White Elephant.   I am now wearing a Mickey Mouse watch as my expensive watch has gone to the menders.



AGAIN!!!


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SPRING IS HERE - BACK TO THE FARM TODAY. 18.3.18


Well, it's nearly here!   In fact we had another night of snow.   We are wondering if City Airport will be open for our flight at two o'clock.


It takes me about two hours to pack and prepare for leaving the flat and as I turn out the refrigerator I am always reminded of an old friend of ours, Doug Hayward.

Doug died a couple of years ago and is still sadly missed by his myriad of friends who often laughed with him and occasionally about him.   Doug bless him was a little careful with his pennies a failing I was to run into both when I worked for him and as a friend observing him!

If I used the telephone for a personal call in the shop he would tell me to put my money in the box.   If I used one of the office stamps for a personal card he would put out his hand for payment.   He did it without a hint of a smile and after the first occasion when I refused and he sulked for the rest of the afternoon, I always preempted his outstretched hand and paid up without a word.    I did point out that I had worked all afternoon and that he hadn't paid me a penny.   He knew I loved him and it was honour to help and to be at the centre of the fascinating crowd who congregated at his shop.

Doug was The Tailor to the Stars and held court in his shop in Mount Street.   If I was ever bored or wanted to just get out of the flat I would go and help him with his customers, most of whom I knew anyway.   Anyone who was anyone and was in London would drop in on Doug to have a suit measured or just to hear the latest jokes from the football loving tailor.   Doug was very funny and if one was lucky enough to drop in when Michael Caine, Roger Moore, or any one of the film stars who loved him, the laughter lifted the roof, especially if they had moved over to Scotts for a little light refreshment half way through.

Ralph Lauren had his suits made by Doug, in fact asked Doug to make a pattern for a mans suit that he could sell under his own name, which Doug duly did and thousands were sold around the world.  Doug made all the suits for the Bond films and a good percentage of all formal clothes worn by every actor making movies in England.

One day I dropped in to say hello and there was George Hamilton who had obviously had a big win at the tables the night before.   His pockets were jammed with large denominator notes and cheques worth up to a million!   Doug closed the shop, we walked to BMW in Park Lane and George bought TWO top of the range motor cars cash down and after four celebratory gin martinis in The Dorchester,  I was so drunk and so tired through helpless laughter that I bailed out and took a taxi home.   The two of them were the funniest men alive.  And George, the brownest!



George topping up his tan!!!


Doug hailed from the East End and had an endless store of very funny jokes and because he cheered everyone up if they were in town for a movie, the first stop had to be in Mount Street.   From politicians, movie stars and even famous heads of Footsie Companies they hung around Doug just for the pure joy he brought to their lives.

Doug lived above his tailoring business during the week and at weekends he drove to his little cottage  at Henley on Thames.   I have mentioned that he was careful with his pennies so every weekend a bootful of uneaten vitals went with him.   I was friendly with his girlfriend Fanny, and one day she told me that he even takes a half eaten sandwich with him, and his potatoes and cheese have done more miles than the Cornish Express!

This morning as I pack up my fridge I realise that I have caught the same mean disease as I was packing up all the uneaten food and taking it back to Italy.   

AC knows what I am doing and every time he passes the kitchen door he says sarcastically that I have to pay any overweight myself!!


THIS WILL FEED US FOR A WEEK AND I CAN'T BUY CHEDDAR CHEESE IN TUSCANY!!!

The moral of this story is a sad one.

Doug grew up in the East End during the post war years and through pure talent and hard work made himself into a star tailor but he never forgot how it felt to be poor.

He saved every penny and when some of his chums bet him he couldn't lose the weight that threatened to give him a heart attack, he fixed his mind on the huge cheque he was going to win and promptly went on a diet.   

He was so successful that he became unrecognisable and later died because of complications due to lack of food!!!

RIP DOUG.  

I need to go on a diet but I don't have the strength of character to go that far.