What is an Expert?

Duke of Windsor Rose

Until four years ago I  never had to look after the garden! So when we downsized dramatically, Hubby and I agreed that perhaps the easiest thing to do was turn this tiny patch over to nothing but roses! Confident that I am NO Expert our mission was to seek advice!

We had rose beds full of Duke of Windsor roses in the seventies so decided to start with those. It took weeks to find them! Then we were told, by the experts,  not to touch them as they are no longer popular  and very difficult to grow! Perhaps our memories were deceiving us?! We knew Cobber, our gardener all those years ago, was superb. Perhaps he was a miracle worker?!  I ordered them!

Coral Island

Over this short time I have squeezed over fifty roses into the tiniest plot! To my utter surprise people are coming round to look at the display and ask for advice. Sadly I have to be honest and inform them I am no expert! The looks I get as they walk away! It is as though I am being economical with the truth!

This Spring everything was going well until a rain storm was followed by a -10 degrees frost. Disaster! As the buds started to open they were so small and basically shrivelled away! The internet was no help! So I called an expert horticulturist who said his roses were just fantastic “the best ever!”Just what I wanted to hear!”It sounds like a disease. Chop them all down and see if they recover next year.”

Cut these all down – No not me

Devastated, I picked myself up. Surely someone knows what to do? Next I went to a Garden Centre with a sample. Same advice from the expert.  “No no” I thought.  I drove to another Garden Centre well known for its prizes at Chelsea over the years.  Rose Expert comes over and is so polite but has never seen anything like this. “Are you sure?” I ask, as  I lead him to all the rose bushes they are trying to sell to us ignoramuses! There in front of him are a mass of buds like mine! Quickly he gets out his secateurs and takes all the damaged buds off!  Then I pluck up the courage to ask :- “Could it be the result of the frost two weeks ago?” “Yes yes that is exactly what it is” he replies. “Yes the frost!”  “So what should I do?” “Just do as I have done and the new buds will be fine.”  Exactly who was making sense?

Thankfully I did just that and all is good. In fact the best they have ever been!!


“But he who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.”

Anne Bronte


Shed not a clout ’til May is out!

Chatsworth 2017

Ten days ago I was up at Chatsworth where it was bitterly cold but sunny. All winter coats and hot soups were needed. I was with an old school friend who could not understand my obsession with trying to find the Pink May Tree (Hawthorn).  “Shed not a Clout ’til May is out”I informed her. “Surely that means the month of May?” she said.

Summer Dresses 1959

I explained that at one of my many schools, run by an old spinster in the late fifties, we were not allowed to put our Summer Dresses on until the Pink May Tree was out! Sometimes it did not bloom until June! Each year we all cursed our Headmistress with such a silly rule.

This year I honestly thought I was going mad! There were no Pink May trees around the country. In fact, until last week, I feared they had died out.  Then all of a sudden their buds burst into this beautiful colour. The time had come to shed those thermals and start wearing thinner textiles! The grandchildren think I am a mad old widow waiting for these buds to flower!  To them it makes no sense. How things change!  One of my granddaughters had to start this term in her flimsy summer school dress. She has suffered the cold shivering most of the time.

Because I shed not a clout until last week I have had no such complaint. During a conversation with my friend she has admitted to feeling the great heat today on the East Coast! So perhaps this old saying does have some merit?! And yet I find the saying below referring to the month!

Enjoy the Summer when it comes!

The wind at North and East
Was never good for man nor beast
So never think to cast a clout
Until the month of May be out.

Kilner Jars & ‘Sell by Date’

The other day I was reminded of how long one can keep food! One of my Granddaughters, who is an enthusiastic cook, delighted in showing me her latest addition to her Kitchen. She had just bought a selection of Kilner Jars and explained that she would be able to keep fruits and many other products  for a long time in them!

Kilner Jars have not changed in 70 years!

Without trying to steal her thunder I started to tell her of the time when her great grandmother was downsizing! In her larder in 1985 we found about forty Kilner Jars full of plums, apples, and many soft fruits. They were dated! The oldest was 1941. Most were the late forties! I was about to throw them but my husband wanted to taste these relics and prove to me that food can be kept for a long time. I have to say the plums were absolutely delicious and all were used in pies for many months. The raspberries were turned into jam. The pickled cabbage was used but not with as much enthusiasm!

A few hens lay many eggs.

In the garage we found about five hundred empty Kilner Jars. Sadly, we threw them out. None of us appreciated they would be the trend thirty years on!  Then we found a cupboard full of war time tins. A few had blown. The rest were fine, including the’Spam’. I have to admit that I refused to eat anything out of the tins. They were forty years old!! In a corner of the larder we found a bucket full of eggs covered in isinglass! I have no idea how old they were! Maybe a few months? Mother-in-law had kept hens.

So during a prolific laying period some eggs were preserved. Lemon curd was also made and kept in Kilner Jars! Meringues stored in tightly sealed tins. Duct Tape was used to seal them.

One morning in 1978, at Breakfast, I  heard on the news that a certain batch of tinned Salmon had caused an out break of Botulism. I went to the larder and started throwing out any tinned fish. Having explained to the children that Botulism is deadly,  my little six year old boy looked up at me and said “I don’t mind dying Mummy. I will taste them for you.” My heart sank.

Cheeky little boy worries Mother!

What was so wrong in his life? With him on my lap he told me in all seriousness that Caroline was friendly with another boy at school! Fortunately that darling little boy grew up to have a wonderful family and is still friends with Caroline!

Incidents like that  have made many of us paranoid about ‘Sell by Dates’. This has created so much waste.

Perhaps we should trust our senses  a little more, regarding food?   If something smells horrible. Don’t eat it. If it looks manky.  Don’t touch it. Taste also helps prevent us from eating bad food. It is Nonsense to throw out a punnet of Strawberries because their ‘Sell By Date’  has passed when they look and taste fine!

Enjoy your week!


“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

J.R.R. Tolkien



Short tubes waste those creams!

Toothpaste and Lipstick designed to be wasted?

“Be warned young man! You are about to marry the most extravagant  girl I know!” This was the advice my father gave my husband in 1965!  Until his dying day hubby tried very hard to teach me to be careful with my toothpaste. He neatly squeezed his tube (yes within a week we agreed a separate tube each!)  from the bottom and I just made a mess and squeezed from the middle! That continued until he died nearly fifty years later! Then for some unknown reason the very next morning, after his passing, I started to work the tube  his way! Please, someone, explain why?!

This morning I realized that toothpaste manufactures are successful in making us waste much. The tops are so difficult to click  back on. Every morning I have to knock the hardened bit off and send it down the drain. Back to my bedroom for some body lotion when the pump failed! The tube in the bottle is about half an inch short of the bottom! So I unscrew the top, shake the cream and catch some with the the plastic tube in order to eek out more! At the same time some is dropped on the carpet! Then my face primer, to fill the cracks! That, too, has a short tube and has been opened and scraped for the last two weeks.

The tube stops at half way in this perfume bottle!
So much left and unable to be pumped.

Lipstick is designed to appear finished long before it is, by the shape of the metal holder. So now I use a little brush to make sure it is all used before the bin beckons. The beautiful perfume, which was a Christmas present, has stopped spraying half way through. The pipe is far too short!

This is so hard to squeeze once half empty!

Finally to the laundry. How many find it hard to squeeze the last four or five washes worth of the detergent? My hands just cannot cope with the pressure required  to extract every bit. So the top comes off and quite a saving can be achieved with difficulty! Interestingly washing powder is back in boxes. I intend using that again!

We all joke about Colman’s mustard making so much money because within a day of mixing the powder it all goes solid. I fear they have set business an example we consumers are prepared to accept?! Now Colman’s have also offered us the choice of ready made in a jar or the wasteful type. At last that makes more sense!

Have a great week.


“Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.”

Victor Hugo

Naughty Step or a Good Smack?

I am no psychiatrist, teacher or expert in this field. But, like many, I have observed much over the last seventy years!  So I ask. Should we punish children with a ‘Smack or ‘The Naughty Step’?

A Daily exercise to instill discipline in 1959!

After over twenty five years of ‘The Naughty Step’. Have we better behaviour in schools and beyond? Only  last week  we learned that there has been a 42 per cent rise in gun crime over the past year, while knife crime was up 24 per cent. I fear after all these years of restraint from ‘That Smack’ we are seeing the consequences. To my layman’s eye ‘The Naughty Step’ has a damaging psychological impact. Dogs don’t sit and ignore their young. They give them a quick nip.

Some from 1941

How can we commit to NO Punishment? As a child I was given a very firm hand many times! Once for waking my parents before 06.30! Never again. I quickly learned to tell the time! On another occasion I was caught playing with my father’s colour slides and marking them with my fingers. I had been asked never to touch without an adult observing me. The spanking I received was extremely harsh! Thank goodness! Today I have so many thousands of slides, which are crystal clear, of my childhood.

Aged Two

When punishment comes for being disobedient a child finds encouragement to behave with praise and incentives.

Times Tables! Yes they are reverting back to these!

Knowing the child also helps as to how harsh one should be. I remember the best teacher I have ever seen work on my son aged five. At the end of his school day he became distracted and forgot to shake hands. She bellowed at him knowing full well that was what he needed. Dashing back he tipped his cap and shook her hand. Then a timid little boy also became diverted from the ritual. With the gentlest of voice she suggested to him he return to her. He quickly went back. She knew exactly how to treat each of her boys under her very firm control. An example of not one method fits all. Neither of these boys received a sweet, on the Friday of that week, from the Headmistress.  Both made sure they did the following week! Yes they were taught respect and to do as they were told! Even going to bed at six thirty at that age! Discipline and routine appear to create a happy child.

My well disciplined Pal

‎”If there is no discipline, there is anarchy. Good citizenship demands attention to responsibilities as well as rights.”
Joe Clark ― 16th Prime Minister of Canada


Learning to Survive!


What was good enough for my Aunt was good enough for us girls!

Over twelve years ago one of my granddaughters went to play hockey and netball in Kenya. On her departure she did not feel privileged!  Her ability to complain about her useless school was second to none! She had not appreciated that she was learning to learn and survive!

In Kenya she went to three completely different schools over a period of a few weeks. On her return she was a changed girl. Her admiration for the pupils at a charity school in Nairobi has remained with her. They, the young, taught her so much.  Every child was so grateful to have the chance to go to school.  They wore their school uniform with pride and yet they had nothing and were taught so little. Their hunger for knowledge made a massive impression.

Wearing the hat correctly!
Every Saturday morning in Cyprus we cooked!

My education was pathetic! I went to fifteen different schools! Yes a service brat was I!  My parents considered survival, for me, was to be taught how to curtsy, put my gloves on correctly, lay the table   (remembering the all important butter knife!)  and speak with a plum in my mouth. That was their honest belief on education for young girls.  Being the ‘New Girl’ so often was a bit like surviving in a pool of Crocodiles! I am grateful for all of that. But there are times when I would have loved an academic schooling. Let’s face it the grass is always greener ….I survived!

Does it make sense for Bear Grylls to suggest Eton did not teach him about real life?  Bear Grylls – Eton did not prepare for real life. Where did he gain the confidence to do what he does? Where was he encouraged to aspire to do something with his life? Where did he learn to communicate so well etc etc etc. Yes ‘Life is an Adventure’ so learning comes to all of us at different times and not necessarily all in five years!

On board Sea Diver -Villefranche 1962
Early trials using helium to get to depths of 300+ feet! 1962 Villefranche-sur-mer. What a treat!


“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
Mark Twain


How Divisive is PC?

I was not offended when presented with this of me at a wedding!

So the PC army have decided that we should not use ‘Mankind’ when referring to the human race. Excuse me! ‘Humanity’ the new word. Perhaps we should go for  ‘Alienkind’? Then we are told that Women have demanded the ‘sexist’ DVLA  delete ‘Mrs’ from our driving licenses. Forms are to have ‘Christian Name’ changed to ‘Forename’. A ‘Waitress’ a ‘Server’.  ‘Polio Victim’ to become ‘Polio Survivor’. ‘Breast Cancer’ to ‘Chest Cancer’.

This list is so long it would take weeks to go through them all! Political Correctness has gone mad!

I am happy to be a woman. I love men opening doors and always standing up when I enter a room. To me that is great respect. Certainly not demeaning in any way. Until I was eighteen I had to curtsy to all adults! Did it harm me? Not at all!   The term ‘Server’ sounds so degrading. ‘Waitress’ gives one an image of a lovely smiling lady happy to help. As for ‘Waiter’? Well, I see a handsome man prepared to make my meal a memorable one!  ‘Server’ brings to mind a hatch in the wall from a dingy kitchen to a musty dining room with someone, in hair curlers, passing the food through! Not so PC!

When working, my hackles rose if a letter was addressed to me as Ms.   Anyone addressing me as Miss was always forgiven, because they may not have known I was a happily married Mrs. Now  we have Student Chiefs banning the use of ‘he’ or ‘she’ at the University of Sussex. So is it ‘it’ said ……..?   Never did I feel offended to be called a ‘Right-hand man’. Everyone knew what was meant. In fact it was a complement! ‘Tax man’ – no please don’t call him an ‘Officer’!  I have yet to come across one who is a GENTLE man!

When young I knew several ‘Polio victims’. Some survived and still live with the consequences. I have just called one great friend and asked him if he minded being called a victim? His response was “Why should I?”.

‘Sportsmanship’ is a great word and encompasses everyone who enjoys being competitive in a friendly and yet fair way. The word to replace it ‘Fairnesss’  could be mother sharing out the sweets to triplets.

A modern version of Three Graces at Blenheim. PC or not?

The final read for the week was to change ‘Breast Cancer’ to ‘Chest Cancer’. Just a minute. We have always talked about both sexes having breasts so why change? It defines one certain part of the body. When I have a chest infection it is not in my breast!

And yet the word I detest the most, ‘Stupid’, is used by so many. To hear a child being called ‘Stupid’ and watch all their confidence draining away is heartbreaking. So offensive.

Enjoy your week!



“You’re not allowed to call them dinosaurs any more,” said Yo-less. “It’s speciesist. You have to call them pre-petroleum persons.”

Terry Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb


Draughts-Cleaning- and those Germs!!!

Newspapers this week informed us that Draughts are to be obliterated! Housework has a school timetable and watch out for those germs!

OK let us go back to when my second granddaughter was born twenty six years ago into a spotless and germ-free household. It was almost hermetically sealed. She did not know what a draught was! For the first four years of her life she suffered from severe asthmatic attacks spending time in hospital in oxygen tents.

Perhaps not quite as draughty as this!
Cottages are healthy and fun!

Then her family moved to a cottage fit for demolition. I was fearful for her health.  The first thing that needed doing was to replace all the upstairs ceilings! This opened her bedroom to the holey roof which allowed driving snow to fall on her bed and draughts!  The dust from all the sanding of floorboards and knocking chimneys down laid around for months. As for cleaning? Well during that stage it was non existent.  Surprise surprise no more asthma attacks. Germs?  I am sure there were many but she and her sister lived on to be healthy children for the rest of their schooldays. Dogs and cats joined the household! My greatest despair  on visits to this lovely home is the untidiness!

Thank Goodness no longer used regularly!
Great but those cables tangle!

Now for the timetable to clean the windows, hoover and wash the floor. Surely it is a matter of how dirty they all look? Fortunately this day and age we have a choice of aids! Oh how different it is to wash the floor! As for Vacuum Cleaners. My late husband, when in a wheelchair, persuaded me to have a robot so that he could set it going and claim to have done the vacuuming! ‘Eric’, we called it, was fine but sometimes did get stuck. To be quite honest  his beeping each time he went under a chest of drawers  too low for him became somewhat annoying! As for a polisher? Nothing beats this which came from the US in 1944!

Thank goodness for washers and scrubbers!
My favourite 1944 floor polisher!

Only this morning I cleared my shower head of limescale with the cheapest vinegar you can get. The smell was quite refreshing!

Eric and a cordless vacuum cleaner compete for my attention!

Yes draughts a few, windows open at night  are more important than fretting too much over a hermetically sealed dwelling. Let us live life and ENJOY. That makes sense!



“Housework won’t kill you, but then again, why take the chance?”

Phyllis Diller

Scientists and Experts can be wrong!

So Diesel is no longer the flavour of the year for our Experts on Eco Watch. Many in my family changed their cars over the last twelve years thinking that they were being socially responsible and paving the way for future generations to have a cleaner world.

On a ferry in 1953!

How could Scientists be so adamant that they were right? I remember being concerned when behind any diesel vehicle because the fumes discharged would cause choking.  But hey I am just a lay person!

Late 50’s

Let’s go back to the mid seventies when Hubby and I were taking out serious life insurances for mortgage etc.  On the forms it asked for our weight! Well yes I was about two stone overweight at the time. The next question was do you smoke cigarettes? I didn’t but Hubby smoked five big Churchill cigars a day plus a few Villagers ( a Swiss cigar) in between. This we declared knowing that he would most probably have to pay a higher premium because the risk of smoking was becoming better understood. The underwriters came back with a quote. Hubby normal rate and I had to pay a 50% premium because I was too heavy! We did go back and make sure that they understood the amount he smoked. “No problem as long as he does not smoke cigarettes” was the reply. The Experts have the knowledge!  Well sadly his health did suffer and the rest is history.

Rare Beef for Sunday lunch.

My father would never allow us children to have any sauces or processed food. Tomato Ketchup he said would prove to be bad for us. Well, it has taken over sixty years for the nutritionists to acknowledge that! He ate fried egg and bacon for breakfast  most of his life. No butter substitute was allowed through the door! When aged ninety nine an expert in longevity came to see him and criticized his first meal of the day and his passion for a blue steak! Perhaps he should try fish and a vegetarian diet from now on? Honestly where is the sense in that at his age? Stubborn to the end he happily continued his diet of a lifetime. He died, after a short illness aged 102.

Sports Day 1959

Maybe his ban on us young girls wearing girdles and bras will come into play sometime. I do hope not! He was certain that if we allowed our bodies and muscles to hold everything up we would never droop. How embarrassing was that as a teenager!

Thankfully mother put bras into our trunks as we went off to school each term. Can you imagine no bras on the sports field! Enough said.


“An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.”

Nicholas Murray Butler


Guilt. Oh the pressure of Guilt!

Guilt – How often do you feel guilty for just being you?  

Guilt is something that has plagued me all my life. First of all I was born a girl when a boy was definitely required by my father who already had a beautiful little girl!

Aged two contemplating what lies ahead.

Then I was made to feel guilty by chattering so much – I have to admit that has never stopped me. But be assured the guilt remains with me after many a party even in my seventies!

Wake up!
Food Glorious food!

As children, we were made to feel guilty if we didn’t eat all our food up. “There are starving people out there.” Now the guilt is about all that extra weight! Getting up after 07.00 hrs in the morning was another sin! Wasting the day ahead.

Mother enjoying life to the full in her eighties!

The Media appears to delight in creating guilt. The greatest is for living so long! Why? Well the Media says:- I am helping to cause the housing shortage. The NHS just cannot afford me. Only yesterday they tried to put pressure on our younger generation to feel guilty by not looking after us. The last thing I want is for my children  to have to do what my dear Aunt did. Her whole life was about looking after her mother. No marriage, that was stopped in its tracks by my grandmother who put Aunt on a guilt trip when she fell in love. Honestly, please let me have a pill that I can use when I really am too infuriating. I will quietly go to sleep! 

Despite having only visited a Doctor about eight times in the last thirty years that pang of guilt appears when realizing I may need to go and see him for a bad chest. As instructed on the NHS adverts, I visited a  reluctant pharmacist who  wearily asked which medications I take. “None” was my answer. Raised eyebrows! A question as to why I was not on Statins. Oh! So I should feel guilty that I am not taking something? After further grumpy interrogation the advice was that unless I felt as though I was going to die there is no need to create a further queue at the surgery. 

During the recent cold weather we were instructed not to go out in case we fell and broke our bones! So guilt comes into play because no exercise is being taken! 

Bernese Oberland 1961

Literally, immediately after the above news/advice,  there was a programme on how we must exercise on a daily basis come rain or shine. Give me strength! Guilt uses up most of my energy!

Waste – stop waste! I agree. We are all guilty but how do we stop all the double/treble wrappings of so many products? Interestingly I introduced a product from Canada nearly thirty years ago to reduce food waste going to landfill. That was not acceptable to many local authorities. They gained credits for the amount of weight collected! Naively I had assumed everyone wanted to reduce all waste. How wrong can one be!

Do you feel guilty about closing down so many shops by using the Internet for your shopping? Using your car to save the town from shutting down creates the awful smogs we are experiencing for the first time since the fifties.   Which guilt do you prefer?

Larnaka 1953

When one of my Granddaughters was in her last year at school she inadvertently praised her headmaster who was in charge of pupils from many religions! She said “Do you know Mr…….has managed, each morning over the last five years, to make me question whether the day before I had been:-  Good, Honest, Kind and had done unto others that which I would have done to me.”  So that man guided her to have a Conscience no matter her beliefs.  Only when her conscience tells her does she have guilt.  She regularly phones to make sure I am OK as do all my family. But Media please do not put our families on a guilt trip. They have their lives to lead.  Throughout my working life I paid all my National Insurance Contributions and Taxes! I was delighted to do so in the knowledge that that would alleviate any pressure on my family. Again how naive!

“I am stupid, am I not? What more can I want? If you ask them who is brave–who is true–who is just–who is it they would trust with their lives?–they would say, Tuan Jim. And yet they can never know the real, real truth….”

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim