Spain in the Sixties

So, life for me isn’t that bad during lock down and there is a little bit of me that will be quite sad when it stops. Of course as I have said many times before I am cushioned from the reality of what is happening in the wider world. And long may that last.   But I do realise that my life has shrunk – unhealthily.  And it might be easy to slip into this new norm. I am sleeping better than I have ever done before.  A confirmed insomniac I have not touched my sleeping tablets in many weeks.  I feel quite calm – until I watch the news! I am eating very well. My garden is looking beautiful apart from the destruction that is about to land on it from Toby’s demolition.  I have been secretly talking to the plants to prepare them and I did see a few of the trees having a conflab and threatening a branch swaying demo. The plants too were not that happy, but I assured them we would be very careful. Prince Charles has nothing on me.

I know this relative calm will end soon and  I will have to confront the reality of the situation unless I intend on isolating until they find a vaccination.  And if Toby and Linda return to work then we are going to have to rethink the living arrangements. One idea is to put up a see-through tarpaulin to seal off some of the rooms downstairs in which I will live.  Not the greatest idea but needs must. Of course, they could always move out!  

Woke up very confused this morning and it took me a good while to come to.  Lying next to me was a bobby pin (for the younger people that might be reading this although I doubt there are any – it is what our mothers used to pin up their hair).   I think my mother might have visited me during the night and left her calling card. Probably had something to do with all the nostalgia going on in my house at the moment. She wanted to get in on the act.

We had a steady trail of visitors this morning.  Gas engineer arrived to assess the boiler and quote for a new one. The builder returned re the structure in the garden. Sadly he wants £3000 so that’s not going to happen.  Fruit and veg man delivered our weekly order, the gardener popped in to see why some of our plants are dying and a whole stream of licensed rubbish clearance people vied for our business. All gloved and masked.  What a weird world we are living in!

And I sorted my last box of pics.  Such a trip down memory lane. And it has all passed in a blink of an eye. Similar I suppose to how the weeks are passing right now.   I am beginning to sound like my mother but how can it already be Tuesday? Last Tuesday was only yesterday – wasn’t it?  Found the pic of my first ever boyfriend who I met in Marbella and with whom I was completely besotted. What a mistake that was.  Always fell in love with the wrong men until I met Tod.

The man in question owned a night Club in Marbella (1969) I was a very impressionable young girl. I was on a momentous trip with my girlfriend Sally. We took off from Leicester with two back packs, pots and pans tied to our ruck sack and £5 each which was stolen we think by a travelling salesman on the boat going from Southampton to Bilbao.  You see my mother had every reason to worry about me.   So, there we were in Spain on the start of our year long adventure with no money. Ever resourceful we hitchhiked to Portugal  (I have no idea why) and threw ourselves on the mercy  of the UK embassy.

Lisbon then was very much a 3rd world city. Imagine, not used to seeing travellers, here came two somewhat bedraggled teenage girls, with rucksacks and by now a few bits of clothing that we had washed and were trying to dry, tied next to the pots and pans,  speaking no Portuguese and just a few words of Spanish.   We must have looked as if we had landed from the moon.  With a generous hand out of enough money to see us on our way (think they either felt sorry for us or just wanted us to go) we continued what was a hilarious and adventurous albeit somewhat perilous  journey. More later suffice to say that we jumped out of many cars to save our honour, including climbing out of a few hotel windows.  Both fell in love with the same man, an Algerian, freedom fighter who lived in an artist colony in Althea.  Worked in bars and hotels, looked after children, smoked a lot of dope, fell in and out of love and lived the life.  And this was Franco’s Spain. I really don’t think we had   any idea of the danger we could have been in. Look it was the Sixties.  Free love drugs and rock and roll.  Oops hope my kids are not reading this!

If you want to know more about what my life was like in the late Sixties I recommend the Drifters James Mitchener. And yes I too was in Morocco and that’s a whole other   scary story which I will save for another blog. I have got to keep you reading!! I would put up a  pic of Sally and I on the road but I  need to ask permission first.


Have finally finished all the pics and duly scanned them to the various occupants of the photographs, binned another 500 and now just have the one case, rather than 3, which I need to collate so that my children will know who everybody is.   I know frightfully interesting! Maybe the boys won’t be interested either.  Tough I am leaving the pics for them anyway.   Do you think I might be becoming just a teeny bit obsessed??

Until tomorrow

“Let’s be careful out there”

Social distancing drinking




“Let’s be careful out there” 

Party Pieces

I woke up this morning and for some bizarre reason I was humming my childhood party piece. Oh – you mean you didn’t have a party piece. How lucky were you.

On a tree by a river a little tom-tit
Sang “Willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And I said to him, “Dicky-bird, why do you sit
Singing Willow, titwillow, titwillow’?”
“Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?” I cried,
“Or a rather tough worm in your little inside?”
With a shake of his poor little head, he replied,
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”

We were great Gilbert and Sullivan fans. But I hated this party piece which I had to keep practising until I was word perfect. Mum said that every child needed a party piece to perform for family and friends. Was that a common thing back in the day? Did anyone else have a party piece? I do remember grimacing when I was pushed in front of people to sing this stupid song. I can’t remember what Brian’s party piece was maybe I will wake up tomorrow humming it too. Or maybe he quite rightly refused to do it. I was always a goody two shoes!

Interestingly my boys loved to put on plays and dance performances for anybody that would watch. They would spend hours practising and we would spend hours watching. How I wish I could go back to those times. Actually I have been back there this morning – in my head. Still sorting through photographs I found another huge case filled to the brim of pics. Where did they all come from and why did we take so many pictures. I mean really do I need to keep pics of my parents sitting on beaches on various annual holidays in the same costumes year after year. And besides my family who are all the other people in these pics. But it gave me a lump in my chest most of the morning remembering and missing and longing.

I also found a whole stack of letters – mum had kept every letter that I had sent her from my travels and I had travelled a lot from around aged 16 to 25. I have only just started reading them – some are hilarious and quite revealing. Poor parents they must have been so anxious about me. And in those days there were no mobile phones and telephoning was too expensive so we had to rely on the post.

There are also a whole batch of letters that mum sent to me. With many references to the white slave trade. I think she was quite obsessed with this. I remember the first time I went to London she had instilled in me slave trade paranoia. So much so that the first time I took a tube I stood with my bag covering my bottom just in case a slave trader crept up behind me and stuck a needle in my bottom. According to my mother that is what they did to innocent young girls who would then wake up in a Harem in the Middle East. It was about the same time she told me not to take any cigarettes without tips as they might be reefers. Meanwhile she smoked Senior Service (for best) and Park Drive (everyday) and neither had tips on them.

But she had every reason to be anxious about my safety. My first trip overseas was to work as an au pair in Spain for a Canadian woman called Roberta Shreiber and her playboy boyfriend Enrique. I love it that I remember all these names and yet sometimes I can’t remember the beginning of my sentence. What is that about? Roberta Shreiber came to Leicester to interview me and I remember the spectacle as they swooped into my small semi detached suburban house. She tall and beautiful and he dark and very handsome in a white suit. We were all blown away. I was despatched by plane to Switzerland to pick up her 3 children from boarding school and bring them to her villa in Marbella. A few days later she took off to Portugal with her lover leaving me aged 16 to look after these children, who took an instant dislike to me and refused to do anything I asked. When she returned 2 weeks later, I packed my bags and headed into Marbella – goodness knows where I thought I was going to stay with almost no money!

And this was just the beginning – I will reveal more later. Afterall I have to find other things to blog about so can’t give you it all in one go.

I have just remembered Brian’s party piece The King’s Breakfast A A Milne.

Let’s be careful out there”

The importance of touch

So there is this pigeon which just sits on a branch outside of my kitchen window. It is always there and stays for a long time. One time it flew down and rested on the patio and we looked at each other in a knowing way. On days when I am sad, I find it very comforting as I like to think maybe it is Tod.

“Hi Darling how goes it with you?” I fantasize that he answers. “Well Honey been flying around checking out stuff.” I loved the way he called me Honey. No one has called me this since he died. The pigeon coos, pecks on the branch, cocks its head to one side and we continue to stare at each other  until one of us has had enough. I swear not long after he died this pigeon flew onto the table next to my chair and stayed for the longest of times. I do think it is watching over me.

I miss Tod’s cuddles. He was a great cuddler. And it made me think about everyone else out there who must also be missing touch. I don’t think we realise just how important is physical contact until we don’t have it anymore. Someone said to me not long after Tod died make sure you have a regular massage because you will be missing the physical contact now that you are on your own. It is so true. It’s not about sex, more just having a hug when you need it, a stroke, a loving hand in good and in bad times, a sharing caress, a playful smack, even an angry thump.

So, I am concerned that the cost of this isolation for many people will be high. We aren’t meant to live in isolation. It isn’t good for our mental health or our immune system. I remember reading that physical contact — the good kind of contact obviously not the abusive contact – produces feel good hormones in the brain like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin – all of which help boost the immune system and ward off illness. And we certainly need to be building our immune system right now. 

 Holding a partner’s hand, cuddling, visiting with friends or family – all of these activities are just as important to our wellbeing as remembering to drink more water and get enough exercise. So how are going to sublimate this? I would welcome your thoughts.

Right now, I could do with a really good hug from Tod. I need him to put those great big arms around me and tell me that everything is going to be ok. That our boys will survive this, our economy won’t fall apart, that the dyeing will stop, the world will recover, and normality will be restored. I know dream on Roma it aint going to happen any time soon.

And I am wondering how’s it going to be for all those singles looking for  online mates. Just think about it. How do you meet a total stranger when you’re not sure if both of you are virus free? It’s kind of risky. Where do you meet? You have to sit 2 meters apart? wearing a mask? very appealing. No touching, or handshakes, just the odd elbow knock and definitely no kissing and intimacy? I guess its cybersex which at least will be good business for the sex toy industry. .

Me – well I am not very adventurous and certainly not on the market which is just as well by the way I look.  Dressed in many layers — it is very cold in our house with no heating — I resemble a rather crumpled  bag lady. I have forgotten what make up looks like, hair is long and out of control, and my escapade with the wax strips has not been very successful.

I have though seen better days. Here I am aged 18 at a charity event.


“Let’s be careful out there”


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”