The Kindest Cut of All

It had to be done! There was no two ways about it. No more procrastinating, no more dithering, no more asking 'What would you do?' It HAD to come of and the sooner the better.

I'm talking about my hair of course. My long, long, (down to my bum long) thick, heavy hair. I mean really, at fifty plus, four feet eleven inches tall (tall?) and well, erm a very round apple shape, I was begining to resemble Cousin It of Addams Family fame. Worse, Cousin It having a bad hair day.


I couldn't do a darn thing with it. Up-does which look like an after thought are not my forte. You know the things I mean; those swirly, tendrily, casually-twisted-into-a-knot styles which some women can do without the aid of a mirror and look all ready for the Red Carpet and gangs of eager photographers.

No, my 'signature' look was a low pony tail, or, with the aid of a friendly niece, a long plait with wispy bits sticking out because of the layers I'd had cut in last year in a vain attempt at tidiness. The only other styles open to me which I could do myself were two long plaits like a German fräulein from the thirties, or two pig tails….if I wanted to look like Baby Jane, with my cat Dave providing the rats.

Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson

And hair, especially long hair gets everywhere. In the sink when I'm washing up, coating the walls of the shower cubicle, blocking the drains and in Dave's food. But he might like that…it's a nice bit of fibre for him when the rats prove elusive. And I was forever hoovering up balls of hair which had mysteriously appeared adhered to the carpet and which, in turn clogged up the nozzle.

No, I was pretty fed up, so, after weeks (nay, months) of dithering, I finally decided it had to go.

Like many women I do not like visiting a salon. I feel so self conscious and awkward surrounded by all those trendy young things with their designer hair, alarming make-up and multiple piercings. And the mirrors make me look older and more saggy and baggy than ever. Not a great boost to my already low self esteem.

And even with the bit of slap I apply in an attempt to look a bit decent, I still end up looking awful. Mascara begins to run after the hair washing ritual and with the ghastly black plastic cape around my (by now sagging) shoulders, I want to die with horror. It's even worse if you're having 'foils' to highlight your hair. You end up resembling a packed lunch.

And you can't hold a conversation. With all the blow dryers wooshing and hissing, the constant chatter and the water dribbling into your ears, it's impossible to get beyond the 'Are-you-going-away-this-year-doing-anything-nice-this-week-end' stage; not to mention the overpowering stench of chemicals, so I opted for a mobile hairdresser. And it was heavenly.

I washed my hair before the hairdresser arrived so no straining backwards over a basin with my feet dangling a foot off the ground. And we could TALK in comfort and without shouting at each other or nodding and grinning inanely. And she did a fantastic job. My hair was put into a last pony tail and cut off ready to send to a children's charity which provides wigs to young people who've lost their hair through illness or after having chemotherapy.

My hair is now in a short bob. I look and feel so much better. A little bit like the sheep who hid away and avoided being shorn for six years. And I look younger and much less baggy and saggy. My cut off pony tail was plaited and sent off to Little Princesses Charity and I certainly felt better knowing my hair may be put to good use.

So…happy days and happy new hair-do. Now I'll save a fortune in shampoo and conditioner and the vacuum cleaner may last a few more years. It's all good, folks.




Unfinished Sympathy & My Descent Into Bi-Polar Madness.

Always Something There to Remind Me

In 2007 at the age of 51, I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder. I wasn’t at all surprised at the diagnosis, and it answered many questions.

For years I had suffered from lengthy bouts of depression where I just couldn’t be bothered with life. Everything was too much of a struggle and sleep and isolation were the only answers. Interspersed with the bouts of depression, I had times when I felt well again. They would come on quite suddenly and it was such a relief after the nightmare of blackness. I always likened it to the feeling of relief when painkillers kick in and the pain goes away after a terrible headache or period pain.

In 1991, I suffered what I now know to have been a ‘Hypomanic’ episode. At the time I was working at a well known psychiatric hospital in York. I worked hours and hours of overtime without any difficulty or any adverse effect to my health (so I thought) I was giggly to the point of hysteria, I played stupid practical jokes, and often wandered away from my area of work to chat or play silly, childish games. I’m surprised I didn’t get the sack.

I also decided that I was going to write a best selling thriller. It was in the days when only the very well off could afford computers; so each night I would sit with my notebook and pen, cans of lager always at hand, and write my masterpiece. And….the only music which would go nicely with this convoluted mess was a song which was in the charts at the time and which I had bought….

Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack.

One evening, feeling particularly ‘high’ and very creative, I started playing this particular record (it was vinyl in those days) and played it non stop from about seven in the evening until about three am the following morning. At the time, I just liked it a lot and didn’t realise that this was a classic sign of Hypomania.

But I was in Heaven. The words flowed, the images were sharp, the beer tasted good and I was ‘cooking’. This was going to be the new best seller. It would be made into a film or a TV drama at least. And make no mistake, I was convinced it was good writing and a gritty, nail bighting story. ‘Sigh’

It wasn’t, of course, and I very soon crashed into a deep and terrifying depression. The worst one yet, made much worse, I now know because of the length and severity of the Hypomanic episode.

I suffered like this for another sixteen years until my GP decided it was time to see a psychiatrist, who told me what I expected to hear. Bi-Polar. As I said at the beginning of this piece, it answered many questions for me and my nearest and dearest. I wasn’t just an ‘odd bod’ or very eccentric, I had an illness which, with the aid of medication and some life style changes, can be controlled to a certain extent. But sadly, never fully cured.

But, every time I hear Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, I am back in my lonely sitting room all those years ago with my ‘best seller’, my beer and my music.


Spirit of a Nation

I'm ashamed to admit that, when news of the devastating earthquake in Nepal broke, I didn't take a great deal of notice. Not that I didn't care, but I don't watch TV nor do I buy newspapers. Anything that goes on in the world often passes me by. And only when I read about it on Facebook, Twitter or my weather forum; or a friend says 'Isn't it awful about…….' do I take any notice and make it my business to read the Headlines.

So I read all about the devastation in that most beautiful of countries. And I was shocked and saddened by what I saw. The poor people in a state of shock wondering what the hell had happened, while sitting amongst the ruins of what had once been their home. Ancient temples and monuments in ruins, and rescuers retrieving bodies from the rubble. Children, forlorn and weeping for their lost families while yet more aftershocks rocked the land and terrified them afresh. Poor, poor souls, I thought, and, exhorted to give generously, I did. And got on with my life.

Then today, I watched a Panorama documentary on BBC I player about the Nepal disaster and one man's lucky escape from Mt Everest.

Tom Martienssen, a BBC reporter was filming a party of British Army Ghurkas who were attempting the summit of Everest to mark two hundred years of service in the British Army. One of the men had just completed four tours of Afghanistan, but he considered climbing Everest much more daunting.

With them was a group of Sherpas, brave men who guided climbers up the mountain with little regard for their own safety, as long as the climbers were looked after. As Martienssen discovered later, the Sherpas had left homes and families to do this most dangerous and skilled of jobs.

Two of the Sherpas, Kumar and Tensing were filmed at Base Camp and smiling into the camera. Martienssen's voice over is chilling as he says that 'Within hours, they would be dead'. Poor souls.

As the party, with Martienssen, strike out for Camp One, a very dangerous climb over deep crevasses and ice, those left behind at Base Camp, including the Sherpas, have no idea that within hours, the area would be hit by a horrendous earthquake and the men at Camp One would be stranded.

The earthquake, which is felt on the mountain, is accompanied by terrifying avalanches which completely engulf Base Camp, killing eighteen, including Kumar and Tensing, and seriously injuring many more. And, when Tom and the others are rescued and brought down the mountain, they are confronted by rows of orange canvas tents covering the bodies of their friends and colleagues. A sight which, Tom says, haunts him for a long time afterwards.

Later, and on a mercy dash with army personel to deliver food and other essentials to out-lying villages, Martienssen is overwhelmed when, amidst such devastation and poverty, the locals offer to share their food with him. Others are busy re building roads so aid can get through to those in need. It looks like a skilled job, much like dry-stone walling in Yorkshire. Temporary school buildings are being put up for the local children and it's a race against time as the Monsoon season is imminent. But local Ghurkas have rolled up their sleeves and are working hard to have the building completed in time.

Most poignant of all is when Tom visits the widows and families of Kumar and Tensing. The devastated women weep as they talk about their lost loved ones, and wide eyed children look with delight at their photos on Tom's mobile phone. And even then, the families offer to share their food with the TV crew and also a place to sleep.

A nation of such spirited, generous and hard working people deserve to have their country whole again. But can it ever be the same? The temples, homes and monuments as they knew them have gone forever. There are people who have lost not just one but many members of their family. Children left without their parents and homeless.

My thoughts are with the people of Nepal. And if, by writing this, it brings their plight to others attention, then I feel I have done something for them.

To read more of Tom Mortienssen's story visit This Site


Is This Justice?


Earlier this evening, I watched the 5th episode of a series of documentaries about the Metropolitan Police. It’s interesting, educational and entertaining and often mind boggling. But tonight…it was absolutely horrifying. I could not believe what I was watching.

The officers were called out to an incident at a high rise flat in Bow. A young woman had called the ambulance as she believed her four month old baby was dead. Sadly, the baby did die later in hospital, and police became involved.

What they saw in that flat was unbelievable. Squalor doesn’t begin to cover it. Maggots, fly larvae, dirty nappies everywhere, congealed milk, and a pan of very old rice (fly infested) on the cooker. Nothing in the ‘fridge, empty crisp packets on the floor (this woman had two other toddlers) and the Moses basket the poor baby slept in wasn’t fit for a dog to lie on. It was horrific.

The baby had died of starvation and neglect and weighed less than she had when she was born. The woman was arrested and questioned and she denied that she had neglected the baby.

The police found some footage or something of this woman talking to a man on FB or Skype while the baby cries with hunger in the background. She (the woman) was ‘depressed’ after this man had begun to ignore her. So baby and kids were left to suffer and starve and cry.

Apparently, this woman had been forced into a marriage at thirteen. But is this an excuse for such terrible neglect and cruelty. I honestly don’t think so. Those children relied on her, trusted her to nurture and care for them and she let them down and wilfully allowed one to die. To me, there is no excuse for that level of neglect. Couldn’t she ask for help. Did no one know what was going on.

The woman was charged with manslaughter and neglect and it went to court. Her sentence…..two years suspended and supervision orders.

I was and still am, furiously angry and I don’t think that sentence in any way whatsoever reflected the seriousness of the crime. This poor excuse for a mother sat chatting to a man she didn’t know while her baby cried with hunger and thirst. Denied, by the very person she relied upon, the most basic of needs.

I cannot forget hearing the cries of that child. I hope that this young woman is haunted by those cries for ever.

I think that justice has let that baby and the other kids, down very badly.



Summer Woes 

There is an old saying here in England that Summer is ‘Three fine days and a thunder storm’. Well, this summer, we have had our three fine days (although not consecutively) and some decent storms in the East Anglian area when, on Friday, June the 5th,  the weather forum I belong to (more of that later) was a-buzz with excitement. And no wonder really, when storms, especially the long lasting or all night variety are as rare as hens teeth these days. Just like the nice weather really. 

I say these days because storms and, indeed real, seasonal summer weather, seemed to be much more prevalent in my childhood; when every day of the six week summer school break was filled with warmth and sunshine. And, after days of endless blue sky and sun, the inevitable, sometimes violent,  thunder storms lasted for hours and filled my poor little mother with absolute terror. 

And the accompanying heavy rain often flooded our basement flat because the ancient drains just couldn’t cope. But we shrugged our shoulders, bailed out the rain water, lifted the (unfitted) carpets, lit the coal fires to dry out the rooms and carried on….until next time. 

However, to get back to summer? 2015, I have just one question…..Where is it?   Flaming June it is not. Every morning it’s like the meteorological version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Chilly, damp and miserable. It’s enough to make the most ardent patriot up sticks and move to warmer climes. And where you don’t need to wrap up in thick winter woollies at six am when you pad downstairs to make a cuppa. (Mainly because the cat insists on the back door being left open….as cats do) So I stand shivering over the kettle while an Arctic blast rushes through the house and raindrops the size of £2 coins splatter the newly bought, tartan doormat. Grrrrr! 

And now…here we are on Midsummer Day and it’s dull, overcast and windy. Oh, we have had about an hours worth of sunshine and it is warm. But for June it is still bloody awful. And after tonight…the darkness begins to slowly draw in again. Longer nights, shorter days but at least we won’t see much difference in the weather. Unless we have an Indian Summer when the warmth of September and October wraps one in a soft mantle of gentle Autumnal heat. I love being at the seaside on days like that. 

But we still have the rest of June, and July and August for the weather to redeem its self. When we might experience some hot sunny days with gentle breezes just to take the edge off. And those warm, balmy evenings filled with the scents of roses, honeysuckle and newly mown grass. And the silence of an English country night when all one can hear is a dog barking in the distance, the rustle of trees as they sway in the warm, fragrant breeze. 


And then…another, more ominous sound is heard. 

That sinister, low growl in the distance. The first flickers of lightning on the horizon. And then…the first huge splodges of rain land on the parched, dusty earth…and into your pint. 

Flaming June indeed. 

If you like talking about the weather to like-minded people. Whether you like snow, sun, thunder or hurricanes…then visit This Site  and join in the fun and discussions. You are guaranteed a very warm welcome. And… don’t even have to be an English weather lover to join. 

Have a good summer whatever your weather preference. ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️