Sunday Poem 206

Short one as I’m doing it on my mobile.

Nurse’s Mistake - by Harry Graham (1874-?)

Nurse, who peppered baby’s face

(She mistook it for a muffin),

Held her tongue and kept her place,

“Layin’ low and sayin’ nuffin’ “;

Mother, seeing baby blinded,

Said, “Oh, Nurse, how absent-minded!”

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PC still down

I feel as though my arms and brain have been cut off but on the bright side, my house is tidy for the fiest time in months…

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Down tools or AFK as young people say

My computing machine has crashed mightily (this is coming from my mobile) and I have been forced into doing housework. Obviously this holds no attraction for me whatsoever so I have taken to re-ordering my library instead.

This is not quite as frivolous as it seems, because Poetry, Language and Medical are languishing in the damp oubliette I call my basement (formerly the Wartime Housewife’s HQ known as the Bunker). My leather bound dictionaries are growing fluff and Keats is definitely under the weather.

Consequently Modern literature has moved to the landing, esoteric has snuggled up to History and Poetry will follow on from  Feminism. I feel an almost erotic glow just thinking about it….

Back soon I hope.

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Sunday Poem 205

Socks – by Jessie Pope (1868-1941)

Shining pins that dart and click
In the fireside’s sheltered peace
Check the thoughts that cluster thick -
20 plain and then decrease.

He was brave – well, so was I -
Keen and merry, but his lip
Quivered when he said goodbye -
Purl the seam-stitch, purl and slip.

Never used to living rough,
Lots of things he’d got to learn;
Wonder if he’s warm enough -
Knit 2, catch 2, knot 1, turn.

Hark! The paper-boys again!
Wish that shout could be suppressed;
Keeps one always on the strain -
Knit off 9, and slip the rest.

Wonder if he’s fighting now,
What he’s done and where he’s been;
He’ll come out on top, somehow -
Slip 1, knit 2, purl 14.

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Another Emergency Meal – Daal

Once again the cupboard was bare and I couldn’t be bothered to leave my cosy sofa and go to the shops.  But, because I am the Wartime Housewife and I make every attempt to live by my own creed, there are certain things which are always in the house. 

I remember reading in ‘Brick Lane’ about a woman going into her kitchen in the middle of the night and preparing herself some daal for a snack.  I love lentils and I always have some in the store cupboard and this dish barely takes 15 minutes.


Lentils - delicious and nutritious

Lentils – delicious and nutritious

2 x small saucepans
1 sieve

1 good handful of red lentils (non-soak lentils)
2oz butter
½ medium onion – chopped
2 garlic cloves – chopped
a good pinch turmeric
a good pinch coriander powder
1small pinch chilli powder

Rinse the lentils through a sieve
Place them in a pan with ½ pint cold water
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes
Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan
Add the chopped onion and garlic, cover and cook until soft but not brown
Add the spices and twist of salt to taste
When the lentils are cooked, drain off any excess water
Add to the onion mixture and mix together well

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Why I will not be renewing my breakdown cover with the AA

I have been a member of the AA for many years, having different levels of cover at different times depending on my finances and the age and condition of my cars.  I also have both my car and home insurance with them.  I can count on one hand the amount of times they have been called out to rescue me, but every time there has been a problem of one sort or another.  Not, I hasten to add ,with the calm and kind men who have come to my aid, but with the details of my cover.

Those were the days.

Those were the days.

However, my experience this morning, unfortunately for the AA, has occurred  26 days before  my membership renewal.  The road near Boy the Younger’s school is closed and I was obliged to take a circuitous route through a nearby village after drop-off at 08.40.  It is worth noting at this point that, having been working until 2am last night, I had planned to drop the boys at school and then go back home to bed for a couple of hours.  I pulled my jeans on under my nightshirt, put my elderly spectacles on, slipped on my furry slippers and set off. 

As I drove along the winding country road, a large tractor approached and I kept to the hedgerow edge of the road to give it plenty of room to pass.  As I tucked in, there was a loud bang and a horrible crunching noise as I hit a pot hole, marginally smaller than Loch Ness, and my tyre exploded.  Unfortunately, it was the spare wheel because I had taken the normal wheel off the other week because of an air leak.  The wheel was in the boot but was as flat as a pancake.  I was 10 miles from home and 2 ½ miles from the nearest garage.


Oh I'm a dandy highwayman and that will be £45.50 please!

Oh I’m a dandy highwayman and that will be £45.50 please!

Never mind, thought I, I have AA cover and this is exactly what it’s for.  I pay a hefty premium every month so that I never need feel a moment’s distress should I break down.  I rang the Emergency Breakdown number and went through all my details and then she asked for the registration of my car.  I told her and described the vehicle. 

“That’s not what I have on my screen…” she said.
“Well, what do you have?” I asked, with surprise and she gave me the number of my previous car.
“What does it matter?” I ask “You insure me, not the car.”
“Not anymore,” she said perkily “We only insure your registered vehicle now.”
“Since when? Ok, ok.  I’ve changed my car and the new registration number is this.”
“That’s great.  We’ll need to take a £45.50 administration fee for changing the details of your registration.  Is that ok?”
“Absolutely not!” I exclaimed. “How does typing in a new registration number cost £45.50?”
“It’s because you informed us at the point of Rescue.”
“I don’t have £45.50.”
“We can take a debit card.”
“I don’t have £45.50 in my bank account.  Can you bill me?”
“No. We need the money before we can come and rescue you.”
“That’s outrageous!  Your organisation is exploiting vulnerable people.  You’re bloody highwaymen!”
“I’m sorry.”
“No you’re not.  I’ve been a member for over fifteen years in which time I’ve rarely had to call you out. Ever.  Are you honestly not going to come and get me?”
“No, not unless you pay the money.”
“You’re wasting my fucking time and at the end of the month I’m going to the RAC. Not only that, I’m going to tell everyone I know that the AA are highwaymen and have no loyalty”

The only thing I could think of to do was to drive my car very slowly, half on the verge to soften the impact, the 2.5 miles to the nearest petrol station, fill the other tyre with air, swap them over and hope that it was enough to get me to my awesome mechanics in Desborough.  It took me an hour to drive to the garage.  I then had to get out (in my nightshirt and slippers) get the knackered wheel off, blow up the old one, bolt that back on, and Bob’s yer uncle. 

Except that for some inexplicable reason I couldn’t get the jack in the right place. Then when I did, the ground wasn’t level and the car started rolling back and the jack collapsed.  Eventually I found a piece of level ground and cracked on.  In case the cake needed any extra icing, my glasses , which I only wear in emergencies, kept falling off when I put my head down and I couldn’t see a bloody thing.

Just as I was putting the last wheel nut on, forty minutes later, one of the drivers from the half dozen vans and lorries parked a few yards away got out and asked if I needed any help (“darlin”).

“Too late.” I hissed through jaws clenched tighter than a Pit Bull with a poodle in its mouth.
“That’s alright then,” he answered cheerfully and sauntered back to his van.
“Bastard!” (I muttered under my breath) and burst into revoltingly girly tears.

I arrived at my garage (G&A Autocare – Truly Knights of the Road) at just gone 12 noon, walked in through the door, burst into tears again and was handed tissues and coffee as they sorted me out with a new tyre.

I shall ring the AA tomorrow and change my registration.  And then at the end of the month I shall be changing to another rescue service.  Their reluctance to actually rescue anyone is appalling and I shall be making a serious complaint.  Your 4th Emergency Service?  I don’t think so.

Incidentally, I have also photographed the pot hole in order to write a frank and excoriating letter to Leicestershire Highways.  I swear that as I drove away I glimpsed a flash of tail and a strange reptilian hump disappearing beneath the muddy water….

Sid James Carry On Dick

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I share with you … The Best Emergency Sandwich Ever!

No really.  Some of my most inspirational chomping moments have occurred when the cupboard has been bare and this was so lovely I could have wept.  I hereby present:

Fish fingersThe Fish Finger, Brie and Jam Toasted Sandwich!

2 slices of really seedy, granary bread – doesn’t matter if they’re a bit stale, scrape any small blue spots off with a knife
4 fish fingers
Enough Brie (or whatever cheese you have to hand) to cover the fish fingers
BrieJam – whatever you have

Toast the bread
Grill the fish fingers
JamPlace the fish fingers on one slice of the bread
Lay the cheese on top of the fish fingers and pop under the grill until the cheese is starting to melt nicely
Spread the other slice of toast thickly with jam.  In my case it was Sister the Second’s home-made blackberry and apple.
Make a sandwich and wash down with a big mug of hot tea.

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That Ole Devil called Education – again

For the last two weeks I have had my entire attention taken up, yet again, with the problem of my children’s education.  Boy the Younger is about to leave primary school and all the good secondary schools are full.  I am going to speak frankly about my experience because I’m sure that lots of parents are finding themselves in the same position this year and I want to offer some comfort.

Sleeping teenager

This is not BTE’s room. It has never been this tidy. Ever.

Boy the Elder is taking his GCSEs next term and I have felt obliged to move him out of his private school at the end of the academic year  because a) the fees are crippling b) the travelling is killing me and c) he has not put sufficient effort in for me to justify being reduced to eating the neighbourhood cats for two more years.  This undoubtedly sounds harsh, but if someone is given this kind of opportunity and they don’t make the most of it, the choice is theirs alone.  Added to which, he could only have studied two of the subjects he’s interested in doing at A Level, so a move was inevitable.

But where to put him?  Where to put either of them?  As I mentioned above, all the good schools are full.  Both boys were turned down for their first choice (at the same school), BTY was rejected from his next two choices as well, and BTE’s second choice was unhelpful and has a somewhat mixed reputation.

Then last week I had a letter from the local secondary informing me that BTY had been allotted a place with free transport.  I had never even heard of this school despite it being only a mile and a half away and, I frankly admit, that its location put me off because of it’s in a rough area (as indeed my own town is considered to be) and I’ve seen how some of the local kids behave.

But beggars can’t be choosers, so I rang them up and booked a visit.  BTY and I were shown around by a pair of charming Year 7s who were lively and polite and I determined to get every ounce of information out of that trip that I could.  I asked searching questions, I posed potentially difficult social scenarios, I marched into classrooms in the middle of lessons (“I’m so sorry to interrupt but I’m a prospective parent and I’m very keen to know what you’re all up to…”) and was greeted with amusement and courtesy.  I accosted the maintenance man and the dinner lady because you can tell an awful lot about a school from how the non-teaching staff are treated.  It was all positive.  BTY liked it.

Just WilliamAnd then they showed us the spanking new Sixth Form Centre.  I had no idea that they had a Sixth Form as most schools in the area have a three-tier system of primary, middle and secondary.  I immediately requested an audience with the Sixth Form Manager who just happened to walk through the door as I was speaking.  Down to earth and enthusiastic, she showed me the curriculum and all the subjects BTE wanted to do were on it.  Good god; I might just be able to swat two boys with one catapult.

I took all the info home to BTE and we sat down and went through his options.  His favourite subject is Religious Studies (now called Philosophy and Ethics) and he would not entertain going to any school that didn’t offer this at A Level.  To his delight they also offer Psychology and Sociology (as well as English) so the deal was done.  He’s going to visit the school himself  next week but, providing he can shift his lazy arse and get the grades, his next educational phase is sorted.  And he can cycle there.

The lesson for me, is that sometimes you have to realise that there is only so much you can do  and that sometimes the best option is right under your nose.  Sometimes, you has to put your needs out there and trust that the right answer will come.  If it’s not right, we’ll think again.

All being well (God willing if I’m spared), come September I will never have to do the school run again.  My weekly drive will be reduced from 450 miles a week to 60.  My diesel costs will be reduced from £80 per week to about £30.  I can sleep till a sensible hour and revert to my natural biorythms (ie semi-nocturnal).
And perhaps the local cat population will sleep easier in their beds….


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Words of advice for teenagers from 1959

Also to let you know I haven’t forgotten you…..

Photo: Words of advice for teenagers from 1959.  Still true today.  Except I think we could call it "words for adults" as well.

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Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni Cheese is something that, as a child, I had only ever seen in tins.  I first made the ‘real thing’ when my children were little and we all fancied something tasty and comforting on a cold evening. Vital Mac Feegle demanded it for his tea last night and his wish is my command….

1 x large saucepan with lid
2 x medium saucepan with lid
1 x sieve
1 x colander
1 x whisk, electric or hand
1 x ovenproof dish
1 x cheese grater

1 pint / 600ml milk
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
½ onion – roughly chopped
a knob of carrot
2oz / 60g butter
2oz / 60g plain flour (pref wholemeal)
8oz / 240g Cheddar cheese – grated
A little paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 200 / 6 / 400
Fill the large pan ¾ full with water, cover and put it on to boil
Put the milk into the medium pan and add the bay leaf, peppercorns, onion and carrot
Place on a low heat, cover and allow to infuse for about 20 minutes
When the water in the large pan is boiling, add the macaroni and cook for about 3 minutes less than the time on the packet (as it will continue cooking in the oven)
While this is boiling, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat
Remove from the heat
Add the flour and stir to a thick paste, return it to the heat and cook for a few minutes stirring briskly in a figure-of-eight pattern
Strain the milk through the sieve and gradually add to the flour and butter, whisking until the milk is thoroughly blended in
Stir in nearly all the cheese, and carry on stirring until it is thoroughly mixed in
Drain the macaroni and place in the oven proof dish
Pour over the cheese sauce and mix well
Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top and a little paprika to give it colour
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the top is turning nicely brown
Serve with salad and crusty bread

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