I am now the proud owner of a little Oximeter – why you might ask. Well it’s all down to an article in the New York Times, highlighted by a good friend of my husband’s Phil who is always looking out for me. He knows that I have Bronchiectasis  which makes me sadly one of the ‘vulnerables,’ as well as my age.

It’s an odd thing this age business. Never have I felt so old before. I have always merrily gone along believing in my head that I was still one of the young ones. Us Boomers  never thought we would get old.   Why do we have to  be called anything?  How about just referring to our lifestyle  or stages of life and if we have to be  labelled ‘older adults’ would be ok. 

This banging on about age is depressing. I AM NOT ELDERLY.  I refuse to answer to being elderly. Can we please find another way of describing us 65 + people. Dr. John Rowe, 67, chairman of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society  talks about the ‘young-old” roughly aged 65 – 75 and the ‘old-old’  being a group of people that tend to have more physical needs and functional impairments.  He says that the problem with the term ‘the elderly’ or ‘seniors’ is that  these two groups are lumped together and the ‘young-old’ don’t want to be identified with the ‘old-old’

Even my lung consultant referred to my age when we had a zoom meeting last Monday. He said that I was probably more vulnerable from my age than from my lung condition. Great way to start the week.

So back to the Oximeter.

IMG_2854 (1)

Dr. Richard Levitan who works at Bellevue Hospital in New York noticed that too many patients were showing up at the hospital with perilously low oxygen levels, putting them at risk for severe complications and death. He said that a simple home gadget called a pulse oximeter could help alert patients to seek help sooner. He calls this the silent pneumonia  and went on to explain that patients with COVID-19 can experience a potentially dangerous drop in oxygen saturation without having obvious breathing problems. Without a pulse oximeter they might never know it and they could get used to how they feel, despite very low oxygen levels. By the time they go to the hospital with shortness of breath, their oxygen levels would have dropped significantly, and they could have very advanced Covid pneumonia which would then be difficult to treat.

“They could still be talking and thinking clearly, and not in obvious distress….. but there might be a period of days where they were going silently down, and they didn’t know it,” says Dr Levitan. 

So, I splurged and spent £54 on one of these devices. It’s a lovely little thing and for the first few days I got a bit carried away with my new toy checking rather too frequently on how my oxygen and heart was functioning. Alarm bells rang when I thought my Oxygen levels were 88 (normal is around 95 to 98) until I realised I was reading it upside down. It is designed for someone else to read it for you. If your oxygen levels dips to 92 or lower, then it is time to check in with your doctor.

Note to self: Make sure you read it the right way up before calling 999.

I am wondering when  our proactive government will advise us to wear masks. We know how prepared they have been for this virus after all it was only the beginning of January that we knew that COVID19 would hit are shores. Did we start looking at PPI? Testing? stopping big events? We saw what was happening in Italy, but did we take heed. No, we continued as normal allowing events like The Cheltenham Races, football matches and music events to go ahead. How many thousands became infected by this? We will never know. They advised that shaking hands was ok. We even saw our esteemed Prime Minister Boris doing it. Until it wasn’t a good idea. And I foresee the same will happen with masks. No, we don’t need them is the current advise until we do.

Mask wearing makes a lot of common sense which is why most other countries have adopted this policy. If only to save those people who are not infected from those that are. You can be walking around and be asymptomatic meaning that you feel perfectly ok, but you have the virus and thus can pass it on to others. If you are wearing a mask, then this will give others a much better protection.

And just to finish this rant – which I am allowed as it is my blog. Where has all this money suddenly come from? One moment the government says its austerity austerity austerity,  and now we suddenly have billions – which of course is great news. Have the Tories been hiding it under their beds or are they just printing more money? I am no economist, but it does seem a bit odd. And anybody heard anything about Brexit lately?

In a lighter note we have purchased a ping pong set. I had forgotten just what fun is table tennis. And from the echoes from the surrounding gardens I am not alone. Seems to be the most popular pastime at the moment. It took a few games for my muscle memory to kick in, but I am now reigning champion. It has been added to my daily timetable. I have either Pilates or Yoga, Bridge, Dog Walk, Table Tennis and  then there is the daily Blog (which gets harder each day) and I have 14 Scrabble partners! No wonder I am not getting through the loft boxes or managing to watch  any of the best COVID19 films. By the time I get into bed I am exhausted.

table tgennis


“Let’s be careful out there”


Why oh why did I ever start this loft spring cleaning. I have just emerged from four hours of sorting through old photographs. It’s raining and cold and we have no heating and I would much rather be under my duvet watching one of the very many movies that have been recommended to me. Instead I am crouched on the floor with cramp in my knees on a very emotional journey through memory lane. And that little space in the middle of the pics is where I have been sitting.


There are pics of my wedding, my parents wedding, my grandparents wedding and my great grandparents wedding. There are pics of my children from age 0, me as a child, my parents as children, their siblings as children, my grandparents as children, their siblings, and so it goes on. And there are pics of people whom I have no idea who they are.

I have found cards the children made for us, cards I made for my parents and cards my parents made for their parents. More letters from Billee in Cairo and  in Rome where she worked hiding Jewish families from the Nazis. I am so proud of her.

billee nazi

I also found some of my old school reports which are embarrassing.

Note to self: do not let the children see them

There is a lot of “Could do better, needs to concentrate, to stop talking  and more effort needed.” Of course, if only anybody had bothered to give me a hearing test, they would have found out that I couldn’t hear so yes, I was easily distracted but also bored and deaf!!! But the remarks from my cookery teacher are just classic.

As we were strictly kosher at home mum made me carry all my pots and pans to school for cookery lessons. Getting on the bus was always a trial as in addition to my school bag I would have another  one full to the brim with cooking utensils. And none of them were in good shape. For example, when making a Victoria Sponge, I required 2 x 8″ round tins, which everybody else in the class happily got out of the school cupboard. I would delve into my bag and bring out 2 rather bent and awkward looking tins which had certainly seen better days and the result was a Victoria Sponge that resembled the leaning tower of Pisa.
And while the rest of the class were calmly rolling out their pastry directly on the flat tables. I had to first lay down a layer of grease proof paper and attempt to roll the pastry out which would insist on sticking to both the paper and the rolling pin.  Need I go on. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what a disaster this was.

And the remarks on my report: ” Tries very hard under difficult circumstances.” Methinks an understatement. I never quite worked out why mum didn’t say just use their stuff and you can give the end product away. I think because she hated waste.

The Maths teacher’s remarks weren’t exactly complimentary.  “Roma is capable of perfectly satisfactory work. When she fails to produce it, it is usually because she has become flustered and careless.” Not surprisingly that I was flustered Mr Finchley (that was his name) you were a little too trigger happy with the ruler. If we got a sum wrong, we would have to stand on our chair, then on the table and if we got it wrong a third time it was a whack with the ruler. We were just 9 years old!

Clearly, I was not a model pupil. I never enjoyed any of my school days right from nursery up until when I left aged 15. So, who are these people who say school years were the best days of their lives?

So what to do with all this memorabilia. Who is going to want it when I am gone and do I want to keep it?  It is quite exhausting just thinking about what to do.

And I leave you with another little treasure. An advert from my father’s tailoring business Ellaneff. Note the prices! £2.12s 6d for a tailored coat.


“Let’s be careful out there”

Snoring – Silence is Golden

It has been said that we marry our fathers and indeed I suspect in my case that just might be the case. 

Still on the topic of the loft boxes —  a silver lining to all the mess from the loft clearance is that I am finding a lot of fodder for my posts. Which is just as well as there is nothing much else going on in my life.

 I realised that my mother and I shared an almost identical experience. We were both married to men who snored and not just the occasional little snorts but full scale, larger than life itself snoring. And if any of you share this particular experience you will find this post amusing.

The other thing I noticed when I came across an article my mother wrote about the experience 36 years ago, which ironically was when Tod and I got married, was that we share a very similar writing style. And one particular shared experience which I only incidentally found out about this morning when I read the article,  was the pre-holiday anxieties re coping with the snoring. Like my mother I had reluctantly retreated at home to the spare room in a desperate attempt to get some sleep but second rooms in hotels were expensive.

In Lake Como after 4 nights of sleeping tablets and four morning of acute grogginess I too moved  to the bathroom or perhaps it would be better described as the shower space. With my feel jammed against pillows to muffle the sound coming from under the crack in the door and a duvet for a mattress I attempted to sleep albeit not very successfully. Poor Tod, I know he felt bad about this but there are only so many times you can keep turning them over and asking them to stop snoring.

Of course, now I would give anything to hear him snoring again. I know be careful what you wish for.

I think you are probably now becoming quite well acquainted with my family, particularly my mother. She was indeed a colourful character and a delight to spend time with. So I have reprinted her account of snoring which I have been giggling over all morning.

I hope you enjoy it too. 

Snoring by Pauline Felstein

mum sleep

“To sleep perchance to dream – that is the question.”  A mixture of quotations no doubt but very pertinent as far as I am concerned.  The dreaming I could do without, but sleep is most important, in fact the pursuit of it has become the dominant factor in my life.My husband snores. A simple and ordinary fact, thousands of people snore. Then why am I making such a fuss?

My husband is a snorer par excellence – and although it is often admirable to do, or to be anything part excellence, the would-be sleeping partner of such an expert has great difficulty in appreciating this particular achievement. Perhaps my husband has snored lustily throughout our married life, but in earlier years I was so dog-tired and worn out that I slept through it. Or maybe he had become progressively nosier as the years went by. Whatever it is, the fact remains that about two years ago I gave up the struggle of trying to sleep with an engine and sorrowfully parted to the spare room.

This move did not come about without much soul searching and remorse on my part, although, looking back, I remember no great lamentations from my husband.There were two reasons for this. I had been told by a friend to turn my husband over when he started snoring. Consequently, the whole night he was being shoved and turned around, which gave me no appreciable benefit and only succeeded in ruining his night’s sleep.  The result was nights of adjurations on my part for him to stop snoring and recriminations from him for being kept on the move.

The other reason was that he liked to have the radio going all night. This might have been a welcome diversion had our choices of programmes not differed so greatly.  My frustration was further exacerbated when the odd time  I managed to drop off to sleep I would suddenly be woken by a blast of noise from the infernal machine.

Come the holidays, I tried to push the dark thoughts of sleepless nights to the back of my mind, and in the feverish preparation of packing, which always preceded our departure, I almost succeeded.  Looking back on holiday time, there were many peculiar situations, one of which was the ‘furniture removing operation’.

The bedroom was an oblong shape and fairly long. During the first night of long sleeplessness I came up with the bright idea of moving the beds to the opposite sides of the room. Not exactly ingenious but at least a few yards were gained to dissipate the noise slightly.  My husband complained bitterly about all the extra work when we were supposed to be on holiday, which was hardly conducive to a peaceful holiday atmosphere. Especially as the situation had to be remedied in the mornings and the beds returned to their original positions before the maids arrived on the scene.

The situation seemed to be getting out of hand when a strange thing happened. My husband has the happy knack of divorcing himself from anything that appears to be insoluble – especially if it is not of particular interest to himself.  He had been impervious to the little hell through which I had been going and had maintained an almost silent implacability throughout. However, the bed- moving syndrome had the straw-on-the-back-of-the-camel effect, his brain finally registered that something was amiss.

One morning I went into the hotel lounge to find him in earnest conversation with another couple, the subject was snoring.  The man to whom he was talking turned to me and said “your husband has been telling us about your problem, worry no more. I know a definite cure.” He then proceeded – and I must emphasise this — completely unsmilingly and seriously, to tell me that all I had to do was to cross my husband’s two big toes when he started to snore.  I must admit that, eager as I was to grasp at any straw, it did cross my mind that there seemed little relevance between toes and snoring.  I ignored the sceptical look on my husband’s face and digested all that the man said, and duly awaited nightfall.

The alacrity with which I propelled him towards the bedroom that night might well have been misinterpreted by the onlooker, to say nothing of my husband, but my thoughts were purely mundane, and on his retiring, awaited the rhythmic breathing which always announced the overture for the nightly show.  No audience could have shuffled more impatiently, I could hardly wait to put the plan into action.  By now all doubts had disappeared, I firmly believed that my troubles were about to end, and that nocturnal connubial bliss would now be resumed.

It was a short overture, soon volumes of sound reverberated around the room indicating the time for me to sprint into action. I approached the bottom of his bed with confidence only to be confronted by his feet, obligingly turned upwards, but firmly and inexorably encased in socks.  I had completely forgotten my husband’s diabolical habit of retaining his socks in bed. Undaunted, however, I did carry on. Somewhat deflated and with rather less confidence and a sinking feeling in my stomach that all was not going to be well.  An understatement indeed – I won’t go into details, because most of it is unprintable. Suffice to say that I was never able to try ‘the cure’ because, careful though I was in trying to remove his socks without waking him, it was an impossibility. My husband opened his eyes and his reaction to my manoeuvres and being woken up was heard distinctly by most of the guests in the hotel – I retreated speedily to my bed.

On reflection I realise that it  had in essence worked. The snoring had stopped because he had woken up. But somehow that particular effect had never occurred to me otherwise I don’t think I would have bothered. A couple of times during that holiday, when things got too bad, I took myself off to the  bathroom and, padding myself with bedclothes and pillows it was not too bad, although the bath could have been longer.

When vacation time came the following year, I was fully prepared. I had given sober and dedicated thought to the problem before the onset of packing had its usual debilitating effect on my nerves.  I made myself a Heath Robinson effort. It consisted of a pair of thick shoulder pads sewn into a scarf which went over the top of my head and tied under the chin. Large wads of cotton wool nestled inside each of the pads for maximum effect and for good measure ear plugs were inserted as they had little chance of escaping.

Pleased with my ingenuity and armed with what I believed to be the ultimate in noise-defenders, the holiday nights ahead held no traumas. Carried away with my own enthusiasm I had not reckoned with the  extreme discomfort when attempting to sleep under such circumstances. The first night added  a new dimension  to my nightly misery even a modicum of sleep was out of the questions and I sadly abandoned my invention and resigned myself to the lesser of two evils – the snoring.

I did think up a final possible solution on that holiday but didn’t  even go through the motions of trying it. For it didn’t take much imagination to realise the results might be even more catastrophic than the previous ones. We were vacationing by the Red Sea and I was doing some snorkelling. When I was kitted up and going into the sea, it passed through my mind, why not wear the apparatus in bed and bury myself deep under the covers.  All sound would surely be deadened. But the swift mental picture I suddenly had on my husband’s face, should he put on the light and see the rubber pipe sticking out of the sheets instead of my head was too much even for me….

“Let’s be careful out there”


A Love Letter from Cairo in 1937

Out dam black fly out said I as I drenched my black fly infested shrub with a mixture of white vinegar, fairy liquid and water. See I don’t need pesticides, good old fashioned remedy. Of course not sure if it will work. Will keep you posted. I know you can hardly wait…. 

See how interesting my life has become. I spent a good few hours spraying, then another few hours re-organising and cleaning the patio, then a few hours reading a batch of old letters, and then it was 5 o’clock.  Fascinatintg. Am I boring you?

I just can’t get my head around how quickly the days are passing by. I used to complain about time before but now….  How can it have sped up so much? I have repeatedly complained about the speed which time is passing as I get older but since lock down it is in a different league.   Why is that? Come on if there is anybody there reading this, tell me why time has sped up when we are doing so much less.

It looks like we won’t be ending lock down any time soon as in the last 24 hours there was another 840 deaths. So much for ‘getting it under control’. If ever we had needed a better government, it is now. I seem to have slipped back into being a news junkie again.  I was doing so well for the first month hardly watching any news but that has come to an end and I am now consuming much more than is healthy. I find myself shouting at the tv and swearing at the computer. At least I am not holding it all in.

There is so much conflicting advice re this COVID19.  Take Zinc and Vitamin C,  Vitamin D, Sleep sitting up, sleep on your front, get a full 8 hours as it helps to build up your immune system, don’t sleep too much because it is not good for your lungs, practice deep breathing and emptying your lungs, drink lots of warm liquid, wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, don’t use hand sanitizer, gargle with salt water, wear gloves, don’t wear gloves, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask … the list is endless.  The reality is no one really knows, everything is guess work, trial and error.  So I am using my common sense which so far, touch wood or ppp the latter is what we Jews say and don’t ask me what it means but I remember my grandma saying ppp after almost every sentence, has been good to me.

I delved into another box today and spent a wonderful few hours reading love letters from Saul, a Jewish Arab in Cairo in 1937 to my Aunt Billee. I wanted to know why she never married him when it was clear how much he loved her. What happened? It’s like a movie but no happy ending.

Note to self: talk to cousin Maxi in Israel and find out what the back story is.

How interesting to read about what he calls the Communes in Israel, (we now know them as Kibbutz) how he believed then that religion was the root of all evil and that communism was the way forward. He loved the idea of these Communes where some of his brothers currently lived. He thought that it would be a good future if only they could all stop fighting.

He talked about how he had visited Tel Aviv in 1924 and was amazed at the size of the City. What would he think if he could see it now. I first visited Tel Aviv in 1975 and it was still then very much a third world city. When I visited 10 years ago, I was blown away about how it had grown and what it had become.  Loved the juxtapositions of the old and the new, the vibrancy and energy of the city and all it had to offer. So different to the calm and grandeur of Jerusalem. Two cities couldn’t be more different.

Saul spoke of Palestine in 1937 and the fighting and the role of the British as despicable as ever “And Englishman shot 25 terrorists to teach them a lesson.”  He described how the Communes needed to have constant guards on duty and that he hoped that one day soon they would all live in peace. Some hope there!

I also found in the box a bunch of Liebig Company Fleisch-Extract Cards. And I think I just might make a few pennies on these as they seem to be much in demand by collectors. The Liebig Company produced “Meat Extract”. The famous German chemist Justus von Liebig invented the meat extraction process, which allowed the concentration and preservation of the essential nutrients and flavours of beef in the form of paste or bouillon cubes.

There you go a brief history of your OXO cube. Around 1870 they started to publish fantastic colored lithographed cards and I have quite a lot of them. Not sure whether it is going to replace all the money I have lost on the stock market but hey every little helps.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Disinfectant a new cure!

So here I am. Ready and raring to go. I have my disinfectant and my syringe but just a bit unsure about where in my body I should be inserting this powerful COVID19 eradicator. What…you mean it is dangerous…but the President of the United States just said it was a good thing. Are you saying he is wrong? But half a million people in middle America have already been shooting up. Oh, I see never trust a man whose brain has gone AWOL. Just as well then that I haven’t started the procedure.

Remember Rowan Martins Laugh In –  How I wish it was still on. The daily Trump fiasco would be great fodder. Each day gets more bizarre – actually I rather enjoy the comedy and the anticipation of what on earth will he top it with today. It would be funny if he wasn’t the President  of what used to be the free world. And that thousands of people are dying because of his egomania. But what is not funny is that there is still a large portion of America following him. “Oh, I know he is a bit cuckoo, but I like what he stands for and he has done great for the economy.” Oh, year well watch your screen idiots the economy is fucked.

And what do these loyal Americans think when there are 50,000 dead in their country — from supposedly fake news — and yet their President has refused to lower the American flag.

Toby says that he is hoping it will be natural selection. That all the idiots following the idiot President  will rebel against lock down  and then  die from COVID19. One way he says to get rid of the rubbish. Sadly, it will not be the case as we know they will just infect others. But it is a good thought and although I have never encouraged killing, I must say of late I have been very tempted.

Yesterday was a nothing day. I didn’t feel well and flopped from bed to couch. Which is why there was no blog. A mixture of physical and mental.  While I have remained relatively positive throughout the last 5 weeks  just focusing on each day, hearing the Health Minister’s pronouncements yesterday  that it is going to be well into 2021 before anything gets back to any kind of normal,  sent me into a twirl. And I don’t do well in twirls.  So much so that at 2 in the morning my throat was enlarged, I had a headache and my heart was beating too quickly. I  was sure that I had Coronavirus.  Happy to report that I woke up feeling fine. 

Note to self:  You need to make a Will

Back to issues much closer to home. My cousin sent me the post below and it was a stark reminder to me that no matter how much time I have I am never going to have an organised clutter free home.  I had always thought that there was minimalist inside of me  just waiting for the opportunity to show itself.  But I now know this is just  wishful thinking.   If you could see the upstairs of my house, you would understand. It is days since the loft was emptied but have, I sorted any of the boxes – have I heck – no they are just sitting there causing havoc as we manoeuvre are way around them to get to the toilet. Instead I have been seduced by the sunshine and my patio Saying to myself this won’t last and when it is raining, I can go through all this stuff. Fat chance





Glad that I have got that out of the way!

I did however have a rather poignant find in one of my mother’s box of letters. it was her hairnet and 15 years later I could still smell her on the net. How remarkable is that?

Apparently, there is a phenomenon which is called “phantosmia” or “phantom smells.” According to Professor Gottfried,  a neuroscientist who runs the Gottfried Laboratory at Northwestern University. He says that the  sense of smell is our most ancient, primal sense and has intimate and direct control over our emotional and behavioral states. He explains that this  is especially true for personal, meaningful memories that tend to get stamped into our brains very robustly.  Maybe it is all in my mind but whatever it is a good feeling and I shall keep sniffing.


“Let’s be careful out there”


The House At The Bottom Of The Garden.

Today’s debate centred on whether we should dismantle the large 20 foot by 20 foot shed at the bottom of the garden. This will be Toby’s next project and he is keen to get started. Admittedly it is falling apart and currently inhabited by an assortment of wildlife. But it holds many memories for me both good and bad. It was a rites of passage for all the boys and their friends and indeed most of the teenagers in the neighbourhood. It is where they had their first joints, drank alcohol and where some even lost their virginity. Its reputation proceeded it and The Abyss, as it came to be known as,  was spoken of with pride.

A good distance from the house it was a perfect hideaway and could be reached by  the  path at the side of the house. Thus not having to meet with any parents!  Some might think I was irresponsible but as the mother of 3 very opinionated headstrong boys it was my saving grace.  Better that I didn’t know what they were doing down there and much better that they were here rather than  in a park somewhere. 

So today I am going to reprint an article that I wrote for The Guardian in 2004. The first incumbent of the Abyss was my first-born Zak. He was having a particular difficult adolescence and thus he needed space as did we. 


Go to your shed

What’s the worst thing about being the parent of a teenage boy? Is it the noise? Is it the mess? Is it their friends? Is it the almost daily trek you need to make to the supermarket to keep them stocked up with nosh? Is it the appalling language, the irregular sleeping patterns, or the continual drain on your bank balance?

Clearly a difficult call. So what parent wouldn’t want to eliminate most of the above? What parent wouldn’t want to put at least 100 feet between themselves and the source of all this misery? What parent wouldn’t want to do as we managed to do – send their 17-year-old son to live in the garden?

Here’s what we did. One, bought a 20ft by 20ft wooden shed-cum-house. Two, erected it on a concrete platform at the end of the garden. Three, installed running water, heating and electricity. Four, sat back and enjoyed our regained space and peace. Now we can only vaguely hear the music; we hardly ever see our son’s friends; he has his own stash of food, and he doesn’t disturb us every few minutes.

It’s a great solution to a problem that had its roots when our son – the eldest of our three boys – got his first surge of testosterone. At the time, I was totally unprepared for the radical change in our relationship and the impact it would have on our lives and that of the two younger boys.

My son is a talented musician, a creative, individualistic and strong-willed boy. He has two demanding, goal-oriented, and egocentric parents. Not surprisingly, the result is fireworks – not just your odd sparkler or banger, but full-blown November 5 all the time. We both needed our space, so when, in the midst of one of the daily arguments, I suggested he go and live in a shed at the bottom of the garden, he took me up on it and, like a dog with a bone, didn’t let go until it became a reality.

Six months later, and £8,000 poorer, we had the shed (complete with own front door, windows and Yale lock) at the bottom of the garden. It is far enough from the house to give him his privacy and independence and us some peace. That was 18 months ago, and it really has changed our lives for the better.

But would it work for every family? Social psychologist Richard Stevens of the Open University thinks separate living space for older teenagers is a brilliant idea. “You can’t kick them out at 17 because they are too young,” he says. “But this way they get the excitement and freedom of having their own space with the security of still being linked to the home. It is like a halfway house to independence.”

Some of my friends think we are too liberal and that we will all suffer as a consequence. What about boundaries and rules, they say? In the past we had lots of boundaries and rules, but they were constantly being broken and the resulting scenario was perpetual conflict. Now, because he has his own space, there are fewer rules and subsequently fewer conflicts. It is hard to be a gatekeeper to teenagers, but there are still some regulations. If he doesn’t go to school, then he has to deal with the consequences. If he gets kicked out, then he will need to find a job and pay rent. If he is not coming home at night, I ask him, out of courtesy, to text us and let us know.

Am I concerned about what he gets up to at the bottom of the garden? Not really. I am sure he does things that I wouldn’t particularly like, but at least my two younger sons and I don’t have to see what is going on. He is discreet and I don’t ask too many questions. I have a spare key but don’t enter without permission unless it is an emergency. It would be hypocritical of me to come down as the heavy parent – I was a child of the 60s and 70s and by 16 I had left home and was living a life my parents certainly wouldn’t have approved of in southern Spain.

My biggest worry is that I have made the house at the end of the garden too comfortable so he won’t want to leave home. Will he still be in the shed, enjoying his space and freedom and proximity to London, at the age of 30? It’s a worry, but we have a cunning plan. We won’t push him out, but his younger brothers will. They, after all, deserve their time in the garden house: moving in there will become almost a family rite of passage. The 13-year-old plans to oust his brother when he gets to 16: in anticipation, he’s already planning his first party.

“Let’s be careful out there

The Diary

I had a moment at 3 in the morning – it is the time to have a ‘moment’ and in all fairness I have not had very many moments. And then I woke up at 6 am to a beautiful sunny day with the birds chirping magnificently and the moment had passed. I could have easily lazed in bed with a cuppa but forced myself to get dressed and start the day with a walk. I was not alone – it seemed like a good percentage of my neighbourhood had decided that a 6.30 walk was a good idea. And just in case any of us were confused about the 2 metres social distancing – park authorities were there to remind us. Or maybe it was a concerned resident. And they were right to do so.

social distancing 

Today I must return to looking through the boxes of papers that were retrieved from the attic.  It is quite a mammoth job and takes me down memory lane where I can easily lose myself for a good few hours. It has made me realise how much I didn’t know about my parent’s life and I so wish that I had asked them more questions. I would urge any of you who have parents alive to ask them about their past, about their extended family and commit it to paper or computer because we all lose our memories at some point and our children ll want to know too.

I found my mother’s diary today from 1943 when she was in the ATS. It was fascinating and very emotional.  No wonder they enjoyed being in the army they seemed to have a great time. Drinking, parties, dancing, concerts, tennis and an abundance of men to have fun with. I am surprised they had time for war time activities.  Mum did seem to have one preferred companion – Ernest – I wonder what he was like? I note that he kept ploughing her with eggs – as it would appear did others. My mother was very good looking. Maybe they thought it would help in the seduction process.  Receiving an egg in 1943 was a big treat.

Mum’s diary from her years in the ATS


I was amused to see numerous references in her diary to “went to bed with hwb”   and mum told me she was a virgin when she got married!  It wasn’t till I got to the end of the diary that I saw that hwb was a short form for hot water bottle. That will teach me to read my mother’s diaries.

The problem with deciding to clear out the loft on lockdown is that there is nowhere to put the stuff you are throwing out. The dump is closed, the bin people are only coming every two weeks and the charity shops are not open.  Last night I heard on our Watsapp group that the bin men were coming in the morning. Opposite me lives a very odd little man who has two bins outside his house which he never ever puts anything in.  So once dark had fallen, I crept across the road and quietly deposited some of my discarded loft goods in his bins. I think I was caught as I spied two little eyes staring at me through the letterbox.  I just might get a visit today.  

Interesting email popped into my inbox today from my financial advisor saying that it was time for my annual review.  Me thinks probably not a good idea – do I really need to know how much money has disappeared. But all is not lost I was tagged again and Eisvert has bought me for $11,117,902! Do you think I can call this in?

I am a bit disappointed in myself because you might remember I had this long list of stuff I wanted to get done during this lockdown. Besides the loft I have not done any of things on my ‘to do’ list. And the loft wasn’t even on the list. I haven’t learnt a language, I haven’t emptied my in box, I haven’t cleaned and sorted any cupboards, except the one drawer which I only partially did as I lost interest, I have given up on my mediation, I have hardly made a dent in the weeds in the garden and I haven’t ironed the sheets I washed today. Well I do have another ???? weeks/months to go so need to rush right?

“I am so busy doing nothing… that the idea of doing anything – which as you know, always leads to something – cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.”  Jerry Seinfeld

Let’s be careful out there”





Anybody else here obsessed with food. It’s about all I can think of. I wake up and immediately my tummy is saying what’s for brekkie? And by the time I have had my coffee, gone back to bed with my iPad, had breakfast cleaned up it is time to think about what is for lunch and before I can say hey presto or whatever one says it is dinner time.

Planning meals especially now Toby and Linda are home takes up a good half of my day. The other half is taken up with what the fuck am I going to write about today?

I imagine there is some comparison to cooking in times of Coronavirus and cooking during rationing. Only ‘some’. I have to think creatively with what is in the larder. Eggs are much too precious to waste and as there is no food order coming need to conserve on the butter and oil and well a whole host of other products. Still have sugar though which is something my mother never had until rationing was eased. I kind of wish it had never stopped being rationed. As soon as it was freely available my mother served up sugar with everything. A staple diet in our house was dripping sandwiches and white bread and butter with white sugar. Rhubarb dipped in sugar. Banana mashed in sugar. Hot milk with sugar, apples with sugar and many other sugar infested foods. Not surprising then that my mouth resembles the black whole of Calcutta – every tooth has a minimum of two fillings. When I asked my dentist about the state of my mouth he diplomatically remarked, “I can see that your mouth has been heavily worked on.”

Actually, it is surprising that I am such a good cook because I was never taught. Unlike many Jewish families I don’t come from a family of good cooks. My mother’s repertoire was limited. Being strictly kosher and with no money, cooking was just a chore that had to be fitted around everything else. She used to say how wonderful it would be if you could just take a pill rather than have to make the food. Think how much time you would save. No shopping for food, putting it away, cooking, eating it or clearing up. Of course, the whole thing was made a lot more difficult because she had to keep milk and meat and in-betweens separate. And wo betide any of us who put a milk fork in a meat dish.

Our garden was full of knives and forks sticking out of the soil” Why do you have so many forks in the garden,” remarked one of my confused school friends. To us it was normal as soon as we made a mistake with the cutlery into the soil it went to be koshered. But try explaining that to a non-Jewish eight-year old.

My mother’s claim to fame cooking wise was biscuits with a cherry in the middle, chocolate eclairs and egg and real chips. We only ever had chicken twice a year and that was when Grandma supplied it for the Jewish new year and Passover. Kosher chicken was very expensive, and Grandma would split it with us. As we were four and she was just 2 she would give us the legs. So, for years I thought that chickens had 4 legs. Well you would, wouldn’t  you?

The beginning of my cooking experience was a little alarming. I had taken a job on a huge American yacht in Marbella in the late 60’s. I was just 17. I needed to leave Marbella in a hurry, and I won’t go into why – let’s just say better than ending up in Franco’s prison. The yacht Krapfcandoit owned by a very wealthy construction family in Delaware were looking for a deckhand and a cook. My boyfriend at the time was a deck hand and I – well I needed a job quickly. So being a little economical with the truth and confidently cocky I applied for the job. Mrs Krapfcandoit wanted to be sure I could cook so she gave me a trial menu before we left the port and on the menu was sweet potatoes. Well I am a girl from Leicester and bought up on a meagre kosher diet of very boring food. As you can imagine sweet potatoes didn’t feature on the menu. Unfazed I set about preparing the meal with the sweet potatoes. I mashed them with sugar – seemed a bit odd but hey they are Americans.


They laughed so much that they hired me saying that anybody who could do this was going to be a lot of fun. And this was the beginning of my cooking. Everything was trial by error. And there were a lot of errors.

How amazing is the internet I just decided to look up Krapfcandoit and there he was Jim, the son who was a few years younger than me with his own boating and yacht company and, of course, very successful and very rich.

Now I consider myself a fairly accomplished cook and a soon hopefully to be baker if I can locate any eggs. Interesting then that my middle son is a wonderful and creative chef. Albeit not the best profession to be in right now.

Just read an interesting article in the Guardian which says that we are becoming a more abstemious nation and making our food go further and throwing less away. So, another Coronavirus silver lining making us more appreciative. Not sure if I should admit this but I am quite enjoying it. No expectations, do what I like, watch lots of movies, no makeup, no need to blow dry my hair, just taking it one day at a time. What’s not to like. Except of course the risk of dying!
The Guardian article quoted a commissioned poll which showed that 90% of consumers said their shopping and cooking habits had changed since the coronavirus lockdown started. More than half (57%) admit they value food more now since the restrictions kicked in, with 43% enjoying it more. And how wonderful that families are eating together, for some this is an entirely new experience and children are learning to cook.

Of course, I realise this is not the situation for everyone. There are many people struggling to get food on the table for their families with increasing numbers of people resorting to food banks. So, while I write this blog from the relative luxury of my home and enough food to feed my family, I am very mindful on how fortunate I am.

So, signing off with dinner in the oven – its Lasagne and jelly for desert and a little aperitif beforehand. Single Malt on the terrace. Not bad eh.

“Let’s be careful out there”


A walk or shall I say delve into the past. Toby, in search of a project, decided to clean out the loft. OMG You cannot imagine what we found. And just as well really because should something happen to me in these uncertain times, at least the boys won’t be left to make derisory comments as they sort out my families past history.

Mum died 14 years ago and there is still a lot of her stuff in the loft. She was a collector and a hoarder. She loved brick a bac and her prize collection of Capodimonte. Hoarder in that she had enough plastic bags to supply supermarkets shoppers for an entire week. And for some reasons boxes of salt and pepper sachets. She also had the proverbial emergency cupboard full of tin goods just in case…. In fact, this situation is exactly what my mother was predicting. And there would have been a lot of ‘told you so’s’. Mum was great at ‘told you so’s’. She also had the memory of an elephant, until she got dementia. Never forgetting who had wronged her and refusing to forgive them.

I remember her saying when the dementia first started,“I know I don’t like that man but just can’t remember why.” I fear I might have inherited this trait.

So many memories and each with a story attached such as the ‘lady’. It used to sit proudly on our mantelpiece and was very very fragile. Brian and I were forever breaking bits of it off as a ball would accidently get hurled at her and then we would hurriedly try to glue them back on without mum noticing. One time unable to stick the hand back we thought it best to hide it and feign ignorance of where it had gone. Elizabeth the cleaner found it behind the sofa which resulted in a good whacking. From mum not Elizabeth.

Then there was dad’s stuff who died 22 years ago and Brian’s stuff who died 7 years ago, and Tods stuff who died nearly 2 years ago — his motorcycle trousers still smelt of him. Isn’t it wonderful how evocative is smell? I just sat on the floor with my nose buried in his motorcycle trousers. Think Tod would have appreciated that!

Added to this is Zak and Jake’s past contents from their flats, and even past au pair’s things which they promised to return to collect but never did. And most precious my grandmothers, ivory satin wedding dress from 1899, a child’s 18th century little smock dress and clothes from when I was a baby. I won’t bore you any longer, but this is only a fraction of what we uncovered. And did I say that my mother was a hoarder me thinks chip of the old block. I mean how many tea sets does a girl need.

maybe it’s time to throw away the mugs

Somebody pulled me up on the last post when I said that the actions of the female leaders were to be highly commended as they had taken early decisive action which reduced the number of both infections and deaths. Unlike our current male leaders. They thought I was being sexist. So I apologise and I am am sure that had there been the right men in power they too would have taken decisive action and done exactly what the women leaders had done.

So where are all these ‘right men’?

I hate to admit it, but I am failing miserably on the book front. I still find it difficult to focus and remember what I have just read and in fact have any inclination to read at all. I am only on page 85 of Sapiens. And the pile of books by my bred remain untouched.  So I was heartened to read Sophie Vershbow’s article in Vogue I Can’t Read a Book Right Now—And I Am Not Alone.

“It’s as if there’s a fog cast over my brain, preventing the words from seeping in. Over and over I find myself reaching the bottom of the page only to realize I hadn’t the faintest idea what I’ve just read.” I am feeling less like a failure now


I am adjusting to having people back in my life. Because until a month ago I had never lived on my own I hadn’t really noticed people’s energies. For the past 35 years I have been surrounded by quite strong male energy. And none of my 3 sons or husband had a strong female side to them. This was just my norm. So, this last month has been an eye opener for me. The only energy in the house was mine and maybe my female animals. With Toby back the energy in the house has shifted again. I am not complaining it is lovely to have company and to share in his drive to organise the house. He is a great kid – well 26-year-old – but it takes a bit of getting used to.

Without Toby of course, the attic would have remained a dumping ground. Now it is the hallway which has become the dumping ground but at least I have a good few days to sort it out. Bored? me I don’t think so. But there will be a good few tears as I go through numerous cases of old papers, cards, photos, school reports, and so on. I  will keep you posted.

“Let’s be careful out there”

The Community

I know we are living through a nightmarish scenario, but I have found a few silver linings.  One of which is a renewed sense of community – certainly more than I have seen in my adult lifetime.  As a child it was different. I grew up in a two up two down terraced house in the Highfields area of Leicester.  We were working class but with middle class values. If that isn’t an oxymoron.  Everyone on the street new each other and spent most of the time in an out of the different houses.  If one mum was working (it was a given that all men worked) then other mums would mind the children. We had no phone, no car, no television, no washing machine and an outside toilet. We used to get bathed in front of the fire on a sheet of asbestos. Maybe that is why I have COPD now.  In those days no one realised asbestos was dangerous.  The same with cigarettes. Both my parents smoked incessantly, and mum probably had a fag in her mouth when she was breast feeding me.

Oddly I remember a lot about the road even though it was eons ago.  The Batkins lived opposite and their son Terry was chronically shy and used to hide behind the sofa at birthday parties, even his own. The street flirt Jean, quite the glamour puss with her big breasts and tight jumpers fancied my father and wasn’t backward in coming forward in letting him know.  The German spinster who lived next door refused to talk to us because we were Jews until her house caught on fire and my mother saved her life. The Plumber boys were the resident bullies who lived at the bottom of the street and terrorised us kids into supplying them with bounty which was usually sweets or the odd penny.  I remember Brian and I barricading ourselves in the house while they threatened all sorts of nasty things should we ever come out again. And the lovely Polish family – who were ostracised by the rest of the street – not sure why maybe because they were foreigners – but they made fabulous goulash and kuchen which I was forbidden to eat because it wasn’t kosher.  I suspect I must have tried it otherwise how would I remember it being fabulous.

As soon as we were in lockdown someone on our road in North London started a WhatsApp group. And within days there were offers of help and goods being exchanged. The group has been quite wonderful. When my boiler stopped working within hours a local plumber was on hand.  When I was looking for yeast as I had no bread somebody left a box on my doorstep and when they knew I was on my own another neighbour left a bunch of daffodils to cheer me up.

This week the family 2 doors from us had a tragedy. The mother, in her early fifties, had an aneurism and was rushed into hospital where she has been operated on and is currently on a ventilator.  And within hours the street had rallied around to offer support to the devastated family.   A food rota was set up and I am making dinner on Saturday. It is heartening to see how much care there is

I am sure we are not alone and there are similar set ups all over the UK. My Scottish girl friend who lives in a small village sent me this pic below.

phone box


I do think we will all be changed by this experience and it goes without saying how tragic it is for all those who have lost their lives and their loved ones, but maybe we will come out of this with a different  and better perspective on life  I know that I certainly will.

Last night I couldn’t sleep as I was thinking of Helen. Only at the weekend we had swapped cakes. I had made banana cake and she had made cupcakes which we left on each other’s doorstep. And now she was in critical care. I think it is the randomness of it all.  It is not something I used to think about but now  I do dwell on it.  You can be a very good person live life healthily and then get cancer and die or walk in front of a bus or….and alternatively you can be a despot, liar greedy and cruel and live to a ripe old age.   And if it really is all random then where does God fit into this.   I know deep stuff.

And it is Thursday again and its clapping time.  Really where on earth did the last 7 days go? I know I keep banging on about this but how can time just keep flitting by especially when I manage to achieve less and less each day. I love the clapping it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I usually end up crying.  But at least tonight I won’t be returning to an empty house as I have company now.

So today was the first day that I have shared the house in 4 weeks. It is lovely but it takes a bit of getting used to.  It is odd talking and getting a real person answering me.  I am very disappointed though with Izzi who has been my constant companion never leaving my side, even following me to the toilet. And now – where is she? Well not with me. She is following Toby around.  And where did she sleep last night? With Toby.  She didn’t even come into my bedroom   – – where she has slept for the past 4 weeks, to say good night. Oh, you fickle creature. When they move out again, I will not forget this behaviour.  Don’t think it will all just go back to how it was when it was just the two of us.  And Mo is no better. She has spent the entire day fast asleep on my bed because that dirty little stop out didn’t come back all night.



“Let’s be careful out there”