Thursday, 22 March 2018





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.




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!!


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!!!


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

Sunday, 11 March 2018


We just made it out of Cortona by the skin of our teeth before The Beast From The East arrived!!
(Finland just call it Wednesday)!!

But we never have been prepared for snow in this country.  Half the fun is grumbling about the inconvenience.

Snow had been forecast for the days ahead but nobody expected temperatures of minus 14C!   London almost came to a standstill and life proved to be quite difficult as we had a raft of appointments set up for the days ahead. 

I will never forget a trip to the doctors in a wool coat which is normally just a ten minute walk to Sloane Street which turned into being akin to an expedition to the North Pole.   I arrived at my destination and asked to take off my boots in case I ruined their new carpets.   As I sat in the waiting room I slowly became aware that I was not only cold but that I was getting colder!   The heater in the corner was blowing freezing air at the patients.

Everyone's boilers burst, the main water pipes under the pavements were gushing thousands of gallons of water onto the roads and freezing instantly.   We had freezing rain and very soon the country ground to a halt.   The television told stories of people sleeping in their cars for up to twenty four hours with even helicopters were unable to help as the traffic jams were miles long.   Some good hearted local farmers were helping out and taking blankets and hot drinks to the stranded drivers but I couldn't imagine sitting in a freezing car for that length of time without petrol or heating!

Our boiler did hang in there but started making extraordinary noises in the night and the flat took about ten days to heat up after a long stretch of being empty even though the heating had been on for a week before our arrival.

I don't remember a colder spell in London.   As someone said to me, "Putin and his damned country never send us anything pleasant!"

My white camellias in the little garden in front of the house were just beginning to open and have now turned a nasty shade of brown.   Ditto everything else with any bodily feelings!

All the snow has now disappeared and we are left with very dirty roads and pavements.   Photos from Italy show that they faired somewhat less harshly but a couple of days ago they had a horrendous hail storm which has damaged the main road outside the gate and will have knocked seven bells of hell out of any blossom that had the temerity to appear.   No almonds or apricots this year!!!

We have seen James and Jude a couple of times for lunch and although we are all very sad about James and Lisa's divorce the little boy appeared to be in good spirits and had grown about a foot in height.   We ate a lot of chocolate in lieu of Easter and Shelley Anne, and Annie Cleland joined us.  The rest of the party were either stuck in Scotland unable to fly due to the snow, or unable to stand up on the snow covered pavements.


The kids who have never seen snow in this country have had a ball.

Putin has sent us another sign that he is stalking us!   For months now his jets have been flying over British territory and Russian ships have been using the English Channel.   Now he is sending bunches of flowers laced with Sarin nerve gas to kill off his ex-spies and their relations.   They are even boasting about it on Russian television.

The sleepy southern town of Salisbury has been turned upside down by the suspected gassing of Sergei Skripal and his daughter during or after a lunch they had a few days ago.   The news is full of highly trained nerve gas specialists in amazing protective clothing and breathing apparatus and the policeman who went to their assistance who gave them CPR is now on the danger list in hospital.

My father hated the Russians and was always predicting the end of western civilisation during the Cold War years.   We had a lot of tin mines on our property in Cornwall and I distinctly remember him often telling our mother that she ought to be storing tinned food in them to assist our survival when the Russians finally arrived!   I think he was only half joking.

Lunch yesterday in Beckenham with Aziz' parents.   They are nearly ninety years of age but still have more vigour and verve than a couple half their age.   Long may it last.

Today we are taking our friend and partner of Mike Wilson for lunch.   Mike died last week and will be sorely missed by his many friends.

Sophie lives a few doors down in Eaton Place and will need all the help she deserves to mitigate the loss of her partner of twenty years.

MOTHER'S DAY.   And I still miss her!

My card from James.   Quite beautiful and will last a lot longer than a bunch of flowers.

As seen on a trip to The Brompton Heart Hospital the other day!!!   When I arrived two young nurses stood brazenly beneath this sign openly smoking.   I didn't want to get into a fight so when I came out and they had gone I thought it worth a photograph!

One more week to go and then back to Italy and my kitchen garden.   Spring is around the corner and I have bought hundreds of packets of seeds.   Goodness knows who is going to eat all the produce but it's such fun I cannot resist the urge.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


We spent our second Xmas in succession at the farm and had a wonderful holiday.

Sally came to join us for ten days and the tree she had designed in silver and white looked wonderful



Sunday, 25 February 2018


My first visit to London this summer and I fly into London City airport.   Small, compact and beautifully formed, unlike all other airports around our city.

My first driver greets me with the words, "Here's a customer who looks as though she enjoys life", I confirm I do and have many bad habits which seems to open the floodgates of my hippy-ish looking chauffeur.   He asks if I have ever smoked weed!!!

I say yes, many years ago and from City to Eaton Place I take notes on how to buy the Female seeds online, the best time to buy, how to plant, how to water, and when to harvest.   I thought I might try to grow a few plants in my greenhouse in Italy and I gladly lap up all the information.   I have since thrown away the back of my landing card and so am none the wiser but it was a fascinating interlude and I didn't begrudge the arm and leg it had cost me to take my forty-five minute trip home.   I also realised this form of gardening was probably illegal!

This man should be a teacher and I tell him so.   His final words are, "Have a good harvest!

My time here has been taken up with visits to doctors, dentists, hair colourists, and the usual people one has to visit when one is an ex-pat and therefore taxi drivers have become part of my daily life and they have not let me down.   Each one is a law and a story unto himself.

I usually try to find a non black taxi, red, white, anything but black because the drivers of other colours are usually more fun.   Black taxi drivers can be moody, old, smelly and generally bad company.

I always smile as they stop and if I get a cheery hello I know I am in for fun.   The old drivers merely say, "Get in", or nothing at all and whatever conversation one begins is met with silence.   Sometimes I even bang on the glass if I really feel like talking and very often receive a scowl.   These are the people who I only give a twenty pence as a tip.   You know they would like to throw it at you but dare not.    The smiley, fun ones get at least fifty!   I gave my hashish driver three pounds!

The last three taxi drivers have all picked me up in Oxford Street outside Marks and Spencers and brought me home and have all been characters.

Immediately I have told them where to go they have asked if, "That actress lady still lives at Number 15", and I have confirmed yes she does.

The first informed me that he had picked up her daughter and driven to actress-lady's front door and the poor girl was in a state because she was late.   Actress lady comes out dressed up to the nines, ignores my driver and slams the taxi door lams into poor late daughter.   Taxi Man informs me she has a mouth like a dustbin and that he taught his fellow drivers several new swear words over lunch.

My second driver informs me he has collected her on several occasions and that she is definitely Older Than God and why do the papers keep saying she looks 45  and isn't she wonderful for her age.   I tell him she probably uses two kilos of cement on her face every day!

My third says that at 8.30 in the morning without her wig and make-up she looks a little like Cliff Richard and why do the papers keep saying he looks wonderful.   He also looks like Old God without his wig and sun tan!

I have known this lady for about forty years and agree with everything they say and the last finishes off by saying I look good but when I was young I must have been a Looker.   Meaning I also look as Old as Methusela.

I knew actress lady when I worked in the film business and then ran into her again in Antigua where we had just opened a hotel.



My New Year's resolution to write ONE blog a week went out of the window after about a month, so here is a précis of the year with pics!

Not a year to remember weather wise, some nice weather in early spring but then a downpour that lasted for the rest of the summer!!!   We read of England basking in its warmest summer since records began while we listened to crashing torrents of water coming down our normally dry river beds.   The grass never stopped growing only to be overtaken by the weeds.

The ponies got fatter and fatter and hay I had bought for the summer months went uneaten.
Salty has behaved like the perfect gentleman and not thrown me off once this year.   He has tried a few times but failed.   I keep thinking I should send him off for cat food but then think that the day I give up taking risks is the day I will lie down and pull the sheets over my head.

Paulo our gardener found a Bambi asleep under a pile of leaves so brought him down to see if I would like to add it to our growing collection of animals but Fabio told us in no uncertain terms to return it to its leaves as soon as possible and its Mum would come to feed it.   Probably one of the most endearing of young animals but a bottle every two hours would not have appealed to me.  Worse than having another child!!!

We had Liesle's daughter's, boyfriend's donkeys to stay whilst they went to chant in Thailand.   Not only did they pull me face down in a very dirty ditch and drag me for half a mile but they ate everything in sight.   Not just the grass but the olive trees, bark and all, my cypress trees, two cherry trees and various other things I would rather they had not eaten.   

No good deed goes unpunished.   I open my mouth and out come words I wish I could have eaten.   Words like, of course you can leave the donkeys with me for a couple of months, no problem.  Ponies do not behave so ungratefully and I am sure Jesus did not teach them such bad habits.