Thursday, April 26, 2007

Feeling somewhat straight-laced

Yesterday became more and more dominated by my back. I stupidly went off to Sainsbury’s, mid afternoon, without taking any painkillers and by the time I came back, I was in a lot of pain. M’s bright idea was to imprison me in the corset that was made for him when he had an accident about 35 years ago. While it’s true to say he was a lot slimmer then and I’ve put on a fair bit in the same period, we are not quite the same shape. Once I’d managed to make and consume a meal, I sat feeling somewhat like Queen Victoria with cushions plumped up behind me watching The Apprentice for the rest of the evening. I loved the bit where Adam, the Philistine, thought the price of one of the ‘lip’ photos was £9.50, rather than £950.00. A man after my own heart. Actually, I’ve got one of those here. But even though I like to go to art galleries, unlike my other half, I’m pretty reactionary and traditional. I wouldn’t have bought the lips at £9.50, let alone £950. What a chutzpah to expect such prices. Nor the bosoms with claws stuck into them. I’d have gone for the horses myself. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m afraid you just have to have seen it to understand.

I haven’t done anything physical today. Clothes have remained unwashed and un-ironed. But I have done a bit of work to the novel – some rewriting following the comments on Tuesday, plus a little extra, which has brought me up to 35,000. And I had a letter in Writers’ Forum about self-publishing. Pity I dashed it off, because I noticed the word ‘comments’ twice in the first two lines. It’s always worth looking carefully at everything you write, because you never know who will be reading it. Tonight, there’s a Goldenford ( meeting. Lots to discuss, I think, including Anne’s new website dealing specifically with Pink Champagne and Apple Juice (, created by Sue at (

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Down in the mouth?

I’ve just got back from the dentist, which I was dreading, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. He said it was the most difficult filling he remembered doing, because I have a small mouth, which doesn’t open very wide, and because there was very little of the tooth left, so he’s built on the lining he put in last time. If this doesn’t work, he thinks that extraction would be the best option. He doesn’t recommend root canal work, and as he tells me it would require me having my mouth open for an hour or more, I don’t like the sound of it very much either. I’ve still got two more repairs to do, one to the second tooth I broke with my enthusiastic flossing, and one which was causing me occasional problems in the first place, and which has been put off until the others are sorted. My fear that breaking off a bit of the problem tooth would be the last straw was unfounded. In fact the dentist said it was easier to get to the problem area. My cold has also abated to a great extent, so my medicinal regime must have worked well. I can also recommend a glass of wine every evening, to calm the nerves and make one forget about sore throats, blocked noses and broken teeth.

I finished off the bookkeeping for Goldenford ( yesterday, so will shortly embark on our own office work. We need to send out invoices before the end of our financial year and I also have to deal with the bookkeeping, which I do quarterly when the VAT return reminds me.

Well that’s the boring stuff. On a more interesting topic, Virtual Tales (, my on-line publisher, is thinking of bringing out paper versions in the USA. They have put out tentative feelers and I will discuss with Goldenford whether I should grant them (VT) North American rights to A Bottle of Plonk. Of course, as they’re only considering it at the moment, it may all come to nothing. ‘Plonk’ is currently available from Goldenford ( or from Amazon or can be ordered from Waterstone’s, and on line, as an e-book or in serial form from Virtual Tales. So don’t let anyone tell me they can’t get hold of it.

Despite somewhat euphoric feelings with the main tooth problem behind me, within another couple of hours, I had a new problem – my back. It could be linked to the coughing I’ve been doing, during the last few days, or it could be that as I lay flat out on the dentist’s chair, waiting for him to do his worst, my back was tensing up in anticipation. Either way, at the moment, I can hardly walk from room to room. Nevertheless, earlier in the evening, I went to Guildford Writers, with my next piece of my novel (working title, Innocent Bystanders) typed and ready. Not bad going, since I didn’t actually start it till 6.00 p.m. this evening. However, it wasn’t met with universal acclaim. But not to worry; I need something to move me on into the next bit of the story, and sometimes it’s better to write something just to get you going.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Slimming lessons and creative accounting

In the middle of last week, I got that warning tickle in the throat that precedes a cold and this developed along predictable lines. My main concern was that I would have to cancel the dentist on Tuesday next. If you’re really huffing and puffing and sneezing and wheezing, it seems pretty anti-social to go and offer all these germs to the dentist. I really don’t want to put this off, as I must get this broken tooth dealt with one way or another, as soon as poss. To add insult to injury, another piece of the same tooth broke off when I was having lunch yesterday, or possibly the day before. If I still needed to send off an entry for the Writers’ News competition, ‘It’s an ill wind …’ I could use this experience. The one good thing that’s come out it all is that I’m eating a bit less than usual. The cold’s taken my appetite away, and the broken tooth has made me eat very slowly and carefully, so that I don’t scratch my tongue. M may also regard it as a minor blessing, as I’m talking less too.

In the hope of knocking this thing on the head, I have dosed myself with almost all the herbal remedies, etc in my possession. That includes Echinacea, vitamin C supplements; cod liver oil tablets. Also linctus to soothe my sore throat. And yesterday I sat out in the sunshine for about two hours, reading Writers’ Forum. I sat out for a while today, too, and started The English Patient for the next book circle meeting, but the sun went in and so then did I. I suspect the book might be a bit too literary for me, but I haven’t read enough to be able to comment yet.

On Thursday M went off on the train to a job at a bakery. He said he would be late, and at around eight, I rang him to find out the progress. The builders who preceded him had arrived late, and he had no idea when the job would be finished. I suggested he walk out, but no, he wouldn’t do that, but he was not going to be able to get back by train. Fortunately, his sister (not the one I saw last week) was not far away, and when he finally conceded defeat, at 11.45 p.m., her hubby collected him and they gave him bed and breakfast and delivered him home the next morning. I made use of the evening on my own to get stuck into the Goldenford accounts, not turning on the TV until about 11.30 pm for a brief spot of escapism. Then with another few hours’ work on Friday, I am about three quarters of the way through. I need to polish them off, so that I can start on our own business accounts and VAT for the last quarter.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Irons in the fire and arrogant professionals

I have a friend who says that whenever you are getting swamped from all different directions, you should cut off one of the branches – and you shouldn’t have more than about five before you reach overload. Needless to say, she never takes her own advice. More to the point, I feel overloaded at the moment, and it’s when I get to this state that I spend more time playing freecell or minesweepers, primarily because I don’t know which job to do first. My desk is piled high at the moment, and on Tuesday, I went to Jennifer of Goldenford’s ( office to deal with the bookkeeping there, and have brought it home with me to produce statements of our financial activities of the past financial year. That’s the problem with a very few of us running a small publishing company, we have to be everything – computer whizzkids, bookkeepers, design experts, marketers, salespeople – oh and of course, we’re the writers too. But the good news is that, since setting up our account with Gardners, the large book wholesalers, we are regularly getting orders (probably from Amazon, though there’s no way of telling) for all our books, my novella, A Bottle of Plonk, amongst them.

I finally finished polishing my latest short story on Tuesday. The deadline was the 18th April, so I hadn’t allowed much leeway. I printed it all out, fished out WN to read the specific instructions and discovered that Life was going nowhere was to be the first line, not the theme of the story. I quickly changed it, which was not hard to do, and sent it off. As I browsed my Excel sheet, I found that I hadn’t recorded the three stories I sent to a competition in February. That was very irritating, as I don’t remember which ones I sent, and may have to hold back on competitions till after the winning entries are decided. Still it’ll be OK if I don’t win anything, so I probably don’t have to worry. I’d like to send something to the Winchester Writers’ Conference, ( – entries due 25th May and 8th June, and will certainly want to submit to my local competition - results during the Guildford Festival in October.

The news about body parts removed without necessarily getting consent at Sellafield ties in very much with the private enquiry on haemophiliacs who received blood contaminated with the AIDS virus. Every now and then we find people in the medical/scientific community so arrogant and so concerned with their research that they give no thought to decent human behaviour. However, the first case has not yet been proved, and if it is found that only cells and minor tissue has been removed from bodies already undergoing post mortem examinations, then it may be that the whole thing has been exaggerated by the media. The other case is far more horrific, as there is the suggestion that a doctor/doctors gave blood to haemophiliacs, knowing that it was contaminated and that they did not disclose to the victims that they had become infected for years afterwards, potentially allowing more infections to take place. If that’s the case, striking the doctors in question off the Medical Register is not enough. They should face a very serious charge.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Inanimate equipment, Angels and Devils

Goodness, it’s already Wednesday and there are loads of things I want to say. Back to the weekend first. We seem to be falling apart, here at home. Not including my teeth. M spent a large part of Saturday re-installing our spare room loo. It’s one of these processor units that can be installed without easy access to the soil pipe, but I never quite trust them. The thing went wrong again with my daughter in residence, so M had to do a unpleasant repair job. Rather like Eddie Grundy in The Archers. When he was congratulating himself on completing it, I pointed out to him that there was water on the floor of the utility room. No connection with the previous job. I thought it might be a good idea to run the water softener and see if that was the cause, and set it going. When I returned, water was pouring on to the floor, so I turned off the power to the water softener. M put a bucket to collect the drips. Only problem was, because there was no power, the thing carried on filling ad infinitum (or till I realised) by which time, we had a mini flood. So a lot of mopping ensued before the repair could take place. And in the mean time, we turned off the mains water – a more sensible option than turning off the electricity.

On Sunday, M left early to go to the rugby final at Twickenham. You may recall, he had won tickets, purely by registering his name on our electricity and gas provider's websites, and he was meeting his brother and friend at the game. I in the mean time was going on to a family birthday party. Mid-afternoon, as I was trying on my entire wardrobe, my s-i-l arrived to take us both the party. We also had to collect an elderly aunt. S-i-l turned on her Sat-Nav, but immediately decided to go a different way. The Sat-Nav, known as Jane, protested vehemently; I thought at one point she would have hysterics. ‘Do a U-turn,’ she kept saying. We ignored her; eventually, we got to Auntie, near Maidenhead, and then had to go on to Bushey. Most of this went OK, until we got to the road where we should have been able to find the hall where the party was to take place. ‘You have arrived at your destination,’ said Jane, when it was quite obvious we hadn’t. We had to go back to basics and ask people, and you know when they say, ‘first left, second left, straight down the road and round the bend,’ and you know you’re only going to remember the first bit, and then you’re going to have to ask again. That happened too. But we got there in the end. Moral: Don’t put your complete faith in Sat-Navs, even when you have fed in a postcode.

M was there before us, but had fallen asleep, after the hot afternoon in the sun. We enjoyed the party, and were able to sit outside in the early evening. It was a roastingly hot day. S-i-l left early, as she’s a definite lark (as opposed to owl), and M & I delivered Auntie home, and arrived home ourselves at 1.00 a.m.

Early in the week, I listened on the radio to Philip Zimbardo, who is known to psychology students for his famous experiment at Stanford University in the seventies. He has been involved in the defence of one of the soldiers who was part of the disgraceful episode at Abu Ghraib. Philip Zimbardo has shown that in this situation, well balanced, ‘normal’ people in the role of prison guard, or similar, can easily carry out bullying and humiliating acts on prisoners. In the experiment, all the participants were college students, but were divided randomly into ‘guards’ and ‘prisoners’. The experiment was forced to end early, because of the behaviour of many of the ‘guards’. Zimbardo says that one or two people might, in this situation, be the ‘angels’, some will be the ‘devils’ and many will just go along with what’s happening, possibly regarding it as a ‘bit of fun’. I was reminded once again of the stink bomb incident. Not quite the same situation and we were 14 year olds, but our attitudes were exactly that.

As far as the ‘angel’ is concerned, in the New Scientist, which also mentions this, it’s reported that one man sent a CD of the events at Abu Ghraib to superior officers. That is greatly to his credit, but his reward for this is that he and his family have had to go into hiding.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

1984 and the invaders

I went to the reading circle meeting on Thursday night for a long discussion on 1984. A lot of people felt that things were moving ever nearer to George Orwell’s vision – at least in regard to the amount of secret – and overt - surveillance that takes place in our lives, the amount of data stored on us all, and of course the way that our language is sometimes translated into ‘Newspeak’. For example, on the first issues, the ubiquitous cameras that observe us; the suggestion (has it happened yet?) that chips will be in our dustbins to see if we put the wrong things into it; store cards that provide information on our shopping habits. Despite all this, I felt that members of the group were being somewhat oversensitive on this issue. No doubt when the first police force was introduced into the land, people felt their freedoms were being eroded – and probably they were. But shouldn’t we accept that there is a trade-off if we want to feel safe. We have to forgo some of our freedoms when we accept that some measures are introduced to protect us from criminal activities. To me, the ‘Big Brother’ scenario is not the worst thing about 1984. The worst thing is that Winston ends up completely crushed.

I can sympathise with Winston. I would be a complete coward and say anything required of me. But it would be nice to think that one did not mean it, and deep inside, one still retained an unquenched spirit.

Nothing to do with Room 101, but I heard a rodent scrabbling around in the roof as I dozed off on Thursday or Friday night. How I hate things entering my house uninvited. The warm weather has brought out (or in) the flies, a wasp into the bathroom, and ants in the larder. We have an invasion of ants every year, but they’re early this time round. They normally come up through the floor in our bathroom and stick around for about a month in various stages of death as a result of the spray directed at their lair. I am not normally violent, but ants and mice bring out the worst in me.

Last night, I spent some time trying to include a Paypal option onto my website, so that people who are interested in buying my book, The Fruit of the Tree, (now in fourth print run) are not put off by having to write a cheque. Paypal, I believe, offers a credit card option, if you don't have an account with them, and is obviously a better bet for anyone outside the UK interested in buying a copy.

The details can be found at my Order page at:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Music, mobiles and molars

Bad news on the dentist visit. If you’ve read the comments of yesterday, you’ll know that I broke a bit of tooth on one of my own home-made almond macaroons. I’d allowed a batch to get slightly too crisp and, yesterday, seizing one, just as I left the house to collect M from the Guildford train, a bit got caught between two teeth. I’m not sure if the tooth was actually broken at that moment, but trying to floss the particle out made things worse. My dental appointment was to redo a filling on the other side, and when the dentist looked at this new problem, he started making noises like a building contractor who is estimating a job and is about to charge you three times as much as normal. ‘You have done a lot of damage,' he said. 'It’s not just one tooth – it’s both of them. You’ve got a very small mouth and they’re very close together. It’s bad enough to consider extraction.’

Needless to say, I was not happy at this, and the outcome is also unsatisfactory. He couldn’t fill the tooth/teeth; he had to put a temporary repair in and I have another half hour session booked in a fortnight, when he will see what he can do. And I’ll still have the new filling on the other side awaiting work.

Listening to the radio discussion yesterday about more emphasis being put on music in schools, (and the usual misquote about music soothing the ‘savage beast’,) I thought back to my school days in inner London. It was a grammar school with some very good teaching and some not so good, but we did have quite a reputation for music. Three times in the years that I was there, we took part in an oratorio with the City of London Police Choir. (Elijah; Messiah and Creation.) Some of us (not me) were better than others and made up a separate choir, who would perform specific parts of the oratorio, and obviously the soloists were extremely talented. Nevertheless, this was a project that the whole school took part in. We built up to it over numerous lessons, in which we would go over one piece many, many times. But in the end, when the performances took place, they were memorable. When you have participated in an event like that, you come away from it with a huge sense of pride and achievement.

The other topic, which also took me back to my school days, was the policy of humiliating teachers in various ways and taking mobile photos of them. When I was in the third year – I suppose we were 14 years olds - someone suggested letting off a ‘stink-bomb’ in the Geography lesson. This was done with the agreement with the whole class, bar one. We were not generally naughty – perhaps we got the idea from an Enid Blyton book. When the deed was done, the headmistress came to our class, and asked each member whether they knew what was to take place. She told us how upset our teacher was at this. I think we were astonished that we had upset her; she was well liked and the deed was not malicious in any way; we all felt chastened and I think we all apologised to the teacher. How different things seem to be now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The public face and the self

I’ve just turned the computer on at 11.10 a.m. Recently I’ve been delaying my start up time, as M has been complaining that we’re using more day time electricity than we used to. He blames it on my almost constant use of the computer, without allowing for the fact that on the days when he’s at home in a state of semi-retirement, he watches repeats of Keeping up Appearances, Last of the Summer Wine, Poirrot, Only Fools and Horses, etc. ad infinitum. I can take the latter, but not the first two. (He says that Hyacinth reminds him of me, particularly when he’s driving.) In any case, I’m not with him when he’s watching day time TV.

However the master has gone off today to a job. In his usual eccentric manner, he loaded a trolley, or would you call it a barrow – I’m not quite sure – with a fold-up ladder and got the whole lot in the back of my car so he could go by train to Croydon. I took him to Guildford Station this time, as he had to collect some additional parts, and called in on the way back to our mobile phone people, as my current phone – a very fancy electronic thing – kept crashing. They’ve given me a temporary one, which is much older technology, but which I already prefer. Perhaps they’ll let me keep the old one.

Fortunately, there were no smart young women at the mobile shop, as I was feeling very fat, spotty and middle-aged. The spots are due to acne rosacia, which I’ve had for many years, but can disguise with a layer of makeup, or Polyfilla, as M describes it. We were too much in a rush for that, though. The fat thing is a pain. A year or so back, I had the will power to turn away from chocs and cakes when I was carrying a bit of extra weight. Now I don’t seem to be able to. I’m not actually fat, but the weight collects in two places – my stomach and my face. I listened to a programme about plastic surgery yesterday, and could well understand how one might be tempted to have that extraneous fat sliced off. Whilst I had no sympathy with the lady whose had £180,000 worth of surgery, (Real Life Barbie, I believe she calls herself) I’m not judgemental about people who had a snip or a tuck. I’m just not brave enough to go through unnecessary surgery.

We’ve had a couple of lazy days and I’ve been reading 1984 the current reading circle book – meeting later this week. George Orwell was surprisingly prophetic about some things, apart from Big Brother – telescreens, for example, which are just coming in now. But I think the main focus of 1984 – the end of individualism – is probably incorrect. If anything, everyone is screaming to have their own trivial life or world displayed to the rest of us. Me included, as this blog demonstrates.

Irene ( ) and her other half came to dinner on Sunday night. I had forgotten the shops would be closed and, as it was very much a last minute decision, had to forage in my freezer to find some earlier creations. In my usual state of disorganisation, I arrived at the table, having brought all the food through, then discovered I had not provided plates. M informed us that the tablecloth was made of rice paper.

Irene, who is coping very well with her broken arm, brought over a CD of the draft for the next Goldenford book. ( It describes her successful and eccentric purchases and sales through E-Bay and is a fascinating read with great photos. Unfortunately, the CD crashed nearly at the end of my reading and I thought I had lost all the comments I’d made during the last couple of hours. By some combination of chance and luck, I looked at ‘Recent documents’ and found a recovered version there. I copied the notes to a new file, just in case.

Got some office work to do today – two quotations, dictated yesterday, to print out, and the end of month statements to send (somewhat late in the day.) And it’s VAT time again, so I’ll be starting on that. But hopefully will also find time to get my latest story sorted out and sent to Writers News. On the writing front, I was very pleased to see Cathy’s comments on The Fruit of the Tree ( When you have made the decision to self publish, in effect, saying that conventional publishers don’t know what they’re talking about, it is so gratifying to have someone enjoy that rejected piece of work.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Mythical multi-tasking

My daughter’s visit with her husband and her own daughter has come and gone. They left yesterday, after lunch, to visit the other grandma. We had the obligatory walk to the local stream with bridge where ‘Pooh-sticks’ (see Winnie-the-Pooh) could be thrown in the water. GD2 allocated sticks all round and we entered into races, in which the idea was that her stick won.

As usual, after any visit, I spent a long time doing nothing, in order to recover from making an effort. As I’ve said, I will never be high-powered. I had a glance, this morning at an article in the New Scientist which gives the lie to the rumour that women are able to ‘multi-task’. When I attributed this talent to me in my profile, I was being ironic. I’ve always believed the myth – and New Scientist says it is a myth – that women were multi-skilled, but I have always known it doesn’t apply to me. I can’t even cook and talk at the same time, and I have to turn off the car radio if I arrive at some unusual situation. According to NS, what our brains do, is to put the items it has to deal with in order. Those people who really do two things at the same time, do not necessarily do them well. I find if I read the paper and watch the TV, I miss out on something that someone has said. This comes as no surprise, as when I was doing Psychology with Open University some years ago, we learned about attention at the summer school. You cannot give your attention to more than one thing at a time – this is why people have accidents when talking on the phone and driving their cars.

As for women and so-called ‘multi-tasking’, what they can do, and I include myself here, is to turn their attention from one job to another – that’s completely different. So I can prepare the meal – which I’ve just done – and come straight to the computer to write what’s on my mind – which I am doing. On some days bookkeeping will follow loading the washing machine; on others, I will turn from writing a story to ironing some shirts. Hopefully, shortly, dinner will be done, as for the moment, I’ve finished here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bare bones and old cans

I’m making preparations for my daughter’s visit tomorrow with spouse and little one (GD2). I suddenly remember the sheets weren’t changed on my granddaughter’s bed since the other ones were here. So a last minute wash, etc.

Also I’m off to Sainsbury’s soon for fruit for tomorrow and the rest of the weekend, followed by some cooking.

There’s much talk at the moment of food wastage with emphasis on the usefulness or otherwise of sell-by dates and also chucking away of leftovers. I do find that my kids and spouses have periodic purges of my food cupboard on the look out for tins of beans dated 1998, etc. I do try to rotate food, so that this doesn’t occur, but I think sometimes they are over-conscientious. The person who spoke on Radio 4 today was a man after my own heart. He said he had some honey which he finally consumed five years after its sell-by date, and it was perfect. As someone else said today, ‘It’s a matter of seeing how something looks and smells and using common sense. I also have a policy of freezing leftover cooked food, which often comes in useful when we’re in need of a quick meal. This too has to be dealt with stealthily and speedily when the next generation are visiting, otherwise anything left on the serving dishes will be binned.

I went to Guildford Writers last night ( We were a small select group and all had time to read. I managed to finish off my ‘Going nowhere’ story and received some useful advice. Although I’d managed to give it an ending, it really was the bare bones, but now I have it down, I can work on it. It’s only 1,200 words long at the moment and needs another 500 or so. We shall be alone over Easter, so I’ll deal with it then. The Writers’ News ( competition is due in on the 15th, I think.

Two trails on the radio for tonight’s listening/viewing. A big story is about to break on The Archers – I’ve heard hints of a spoiler in one of the papers and discussions have taken place on the Archers Website too. I doubt if I’ll be surprised by the outcome, but the Brian/Siobhan story was very well done at the time and kept Archers’ fans on the edge of our seats. This is something new on the same story. Apart from that, I’ll be watching the fun on The Apprentice. No good me trying to learn how to be high powered. That’s never been my style, but the bright young things are interesting, just the same.

Later – just heard The Archers – Brian and Siobhan as good as ever, together.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A good news day

Another word about The Fruit of the Tree -just to make life easier – if you don’t want to go for an aimless wander around my website and you want to cut to the chase and order a book – this is the code: where you will find Fruit priced as £7.50 plus £1 p&p. As you will see from Amazon, the recommended retail price is £8.50.

By the way, can someone tell me how to create a sidebar, then I can include this, together with other websites for people to visit.

A busy day yesterday, as my sister in law and niece came to dinner. We had a good evening. I spent much of the afternoon, preparing. I had already in the morning, carried out my traditional Monday washday routine – changing sheets, etc. (We are the last outpost of blankets and sheets, here.) I also went to the bank, and while there took photos of the old library and the proposed new one. You can just see the word LIBRARY through the trees. It’s good to see this village improving its amenities.

Good news from Irene ( whose novel of India, The Moon's Complexion, a Goldenford ( book, has been accepted by Virtual Tales ( It’s a quality novel and I’m not surprised they wanted it.

Also, a surprise email this morning saying M had won rugby tickets from our gas/electricity company. I must admit I was highly sceptical when I fed in the email address to their website for this lottery. Now I wonder whether anyone else bothered to enter, or whether all the rest of the energy users of this group are either not on the internet, or prefer football.

My s-i-l was so inspired by my display of muscari (grape hyacinths) when she called in last week, that, she tells me, she persuaded her husband to take her to Winkworth arboretum during the weekend. It transpired she thought they were bluebells, and couldn’t understand why there were none in flower when they arrived there.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Stories from Grandma

A couple of welcome sunny days and M & I took a walk yesterday; I also spoke to my offspring – one today and one yesterday and my middle granddaughter (GD2) today. Talking of granddaughters, I was amused last week by the other two. For as long as GD3 as been old enough to have a voice, there has been conflict at the seating arrangements when we’re all together. GD1 would say, ‘I want to sit next to Grandpa,’ and GD3 would say, ‘No I want to.’ Negotiations would then take place, whereby one sat next to him during the main meal and then they would swap places for pudding. On this occasion, GD3 said, ‘I want to sit next to Grandma,’ and of course GD1 disagreed and the usual rules applied. However, I thought it showed an interesting and individualistic side of her personality – and of course, also that their feelings for the pair of us are irrelevant – it’s just an additional round in the battle of the siblings.

Sometimes I’m asked to tell them a story – and we have a few good ones about M going on a steam engine in Wellington, Somerset – like the railway children - and emerging with a soot blackened face; pushing his little sister’s pram down a hill (full of coal), and letting go the handles in order for it to get to the bottom faster. But I have one or two as well; they seem to like the one about me driving into the back of a police car – which of course is in The Fruit of the Tree. I give them a simplified version, as GD3 is only 5. I’ve wondered about getting these stories into a book form; I could call it Grandma and Grandpa get up to mischief or something like that. Setting up, of course, if I did it though a printer, would cost around £100 and I couldn’t illustrate it.

Last week, Anne, ( made some very nice comments about The Fruit of the Tree, which, as she rightly pointed out, you can get from Amazon. Certainly, if you want a second hand copy, then Amazon is the place to go, but for a new copy, my own website is better. That’s at: Amazon put an additional charge – a sourcing fee, they call it - on new copies, as my publishing house is unknown to them. Whereas I send mine out post free in the UK – and if you ask for it, signed too. Fruit has always been an important book to me, and therefore irrespective of whether it’s bought first or second hand, I am glad if people are reading it. That’s what I wrote it for.

Before my daughter telephoned, I was listening to Desert Island Discs with castaway, Ben Helfgott – a Holocaust survivor - and I was moved to tears by his story. He described how his mother and sister were shot by the Nazis and how his father was subsequently also shot, and even though this man was in his seventies, you could hear in his voice how these tragedies were as fresh to him today as when they happened, more than sixty years ago. His first choice of records was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, and I was also moved when he said how much he loved England. We are often critical of our own country. We expect better of it than it sometimes delivers; people sometimes get rather po-faced at the jokey patriotism of Last Night at the Proms. Sometimes, we should listen to an outsider who has spent most of his life here, but who is very much aware of how it compares with another regime, to get a fresh perspective on it. You can hear a repeat next Friday on Radio 4, though not available on ‘Listen Again.’