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 In 2006 we spent a fantastic weekend in Warbleswick to celebrate the Maynards’ birthdays. Another excuse for an Ode! I can’t help myself sometimes. No one asked me to do it, but I insisted. Whether they wanted it or not. To be honest, I’m really not sure that they enjoyed it, but at least it was quite a short one so over in a couple of minutes. The need to know for this one is that one of Ian’s catchphrases as he says goodbye  is “Always a pleasure, never a chore’.

Ode on the occasion of Ian and Christine’s 50th Birthdays

In April 1956

Two storks flew keen and eager

One dropped his load in the far North east

The other in Tredegar.

The Geordie lass worked hard at school

Was sporty and athletic

The Valleys boy was more concerned

His barber was pathetic.

And so he’d go to Cardiff,

For coiffure a la carte

I think that’s where the love of style

And Brand began to start.

A – level stress beset them both,

But both did try their best –  er

And luck would have the two would meet

At campus there in Leicester.

Now student life was gay and fun,

And then came graduation

They both set off  to London town,

The far south of the nation

They had it tough the first few years,

Crap neighbours, not much dough,

Then came the  gifts of boy girl boy

Or Tim, then Hel then O

We’re here to toast your milestone

You’ve reached a golden age,

Where pension books loom large as life

You can’t read a single page

You are perfect party people,

Mixing charm with warmth and wit

With loyalty , integrity and

Taking no bullshit

So here’s to Ian and to Christine,

We couldn’t love them more,

They really are a pleasure,

And never once a chore.

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Lawrence of Alabia

April 28, 2012

The title refers to a slip of the tongue (haha) I made at a girls night out the other week. I can’t really remember the actual conversation, but I was still sniggering about it when I woke up the next day and it set me thinking. What to call genitalia has always been steeped in difficulty if you are female. Somehow there appear to be acceptable words for boys – like willy – that everyone understands and no one finds offensive. Then there is the progression to dick, prick or cock which you wouldn’t necessarily expect primary schoolers to use, but are routine in adolescent and adult conversations. Even the anatomically correct penis gets a look in in general conversation or at the doctor’s surgery. Contrast this with the little girl. There is no ‘willy’equivalent. There is the euphemistic and entirely unacceptable ‘front bottom’ – what message is that giving a 5 year old? Or a plethora of idiosyncratic names like ‘fairy’, ‘twinkle’ ‘minnie’ or ‘bits’ none of which are as universally accepted or acceptable as willy.

Even as adults the various terms for vagina and vulva are generally seen as crude and used as a harsh insult, whereas nob and prick are fairly jocular terms of abuse. The only good thing about all this is that I see it as the sign of a great night ahead if someone uses the C word in a lighthearted way the first time I meet them.

I’m surprised that the fact this was playing at “The Bush” wasn’t woven in to the script as the whole premise of the play was about women’s fundamental raison d’etre is to be married, however unhappy that makes them in reality. The language is coarse and very funny.  The play travels through time to see a hen night, a wedding and a birthday being celebrated at Butlins by the various generations of Geordie women – at the centre of whom is Loretta, a woman desperate to have a good time and vehement that her family will too. She worships the younger tarty daughter (Jolene)  who immmediately  falls in love with the numerous men she encounters and keeps a scrapbook of her future wedding. This is how women behave in Loretta-world where we have to believe in the fairytale that one day our Prince will come and we’d better make the most of him.  As such, she is vile to her elder daughter and we are made to feel really uncomfortable the way she treats her . At times I welled up, lost in the viciousness.  These relationships are reiterations of Loretta’s own relationship with her mother – who she is desperate to please, but her mother is only interested in her elder sister Paula, who has broken free of the tangled web of roots these women have created. A solid three stars.

We have had the Audi for about 5 years and I have never liked it. We bought it as a compromise. Never a good idea with us as we tend to have divergent views on everything and a compromise simply means neither of us like the item. But to be honest it has never broken down or let us down so we should be grateful for the fact that the only real issue we’ve had with it is the air con not working properly. So hardly a major issue. For me it has had all the drawbacks of a big car in that it is too big to park easily but none of the brand perks of being a luxury motor. So we decided to buy a new (second hand) car and hurtled to Brentford Mercedes on Sunday in the pissing rain. As ever with Brentford Mercedes they were more keen to avoid helping us although to be fair we did arrive only just before closing. So Internet search back at home reveals a car that sounds hopeful and it is in New Malden so we arrange to see it tonight, after having been to see an MA show in Experimental Film (surprisingly accessible) at Kingston Uni. So we arrive and the salesman is superb. Straightforward, easy , no pressure, good fun. Takes us out in a bigger, more expensive model but isn’t pushy at all. No need to. I am smitten. Love it. Takes me on a trip down memory lane  to my old Merc when the kids were small and all those happy memories. (except when I drove off whilst the youngest was still climbing in to the seats in the boot and I didn’t notice so she flew out backwards in to the road) . He answers every question without hesitation. He’s heard it all before and knows exactly how to play us. Without being clever or smarmy or evasive. You know you are being sold to but it is a joy. And so it is we end up choosing a car costing 50% more than we intended but Husband manfully negotiates a better deal with the finance guy and we part feeling excited that we are buying a car we both actually like this time. And we shake hands with the guy who will be collecting his award as UK Mercedes salesman of the year this Friday. Seriously.  He’s won it ten years in a row and I am not surprised. We were in the presence of greatness and I loved it.

In many ways I think I am more bloke than woman. I don’t like massages, I am not touchy-feely, I am not sentimental, I forget important dates, I am not bothered by Valentine’s Day, I am not a good housekeeper, I have no joy when someone gives me a recipe book, I am not very sympathetic,  I rarely want to talk something over. However, I think there are other, fundamental differences between males and females generally that make me realise I am not trapped in the wrong body!

Top Ten Things That Make Men Different

  1. Blokes don’t have hidden agendas
  2. Blokes do not agonise about things
  3. Blokes see things in black and white
  4. Blokes do not worry about saying no to a friend
  5. Blokes do not take offence easily
  6. Blokes are not impressed by make up
  7. Blokes think their own bodies are basically OK
  8. Blokes are less concerned about looks than availability
  9. Blokes think asking for help is a sign of weakness
  10. Blokes never think your bum looks big in this. They just want a shag.

I have a love/hate relationship with fitness. I love being fit, but I hate the actual process of getting there. So it is that I have tried going to the gym to do treadmills, rowing machines etc but I ended up simply cheating and not doing very much at all as the slightest hint of pain or real effort and I’m out of there. Pathetic. I love partying  and dancing so when I found aerobics classes I suddenly realised this was going to be the closest way for me to get fit doing something I enjoyed. The nearest I get to clubbing at my age. Music makes a huge difference and can increase or decrease my energy levels, as can the instructor. It amazes me when doing pre-choreographed classes how different they can be when the instuctor changes yet the moves, the music and everything else stays the same. I enjoy the whole ‘team’ feeling of a class. I don’t want to be the one doing the least hence it makes me work harder. However, it will not surprise you to know I get pretty hacked off with people in class who put no bloody effort in at all. They are the fitness equivalent of ‘mood hoovers’ as they seem to suck the energy out of the room and negate the symbiotic principle of group exercise where together we are stronger and help each other do more.

Am just back from a class I really enjoyed despite the fact the instructor had no mike and the aircon was broken and the reason  for my pleasure was that the instructor still maintained really high energy and was able to cue the class using hand signals and moving round the room to ensure everyone still got a great workout. Quite inspirational watching her. I love seeing people at the top of their game, whatever their job is. Plus one of my classmates swapped places with me two thirds of the way through as the aircon where she was positioned actually came on and she thought I needed it more than her. How lovely was that? And it did make a huge difference to me as I boil like a beetroot even with aircon. People can be so kind.

Top Ten Tips to Make Yourself Popular at the Gym(or not)

  1. When using the equipment, do try to make as much noise as possible. Grunts and squeals are particularly welcomed by your fellow members
  2. Don’t wipe your sweat off any equipment so that the next person has the opportunity of doing  this as a pre-exercise warm up
  3. Do offer tips on technique to your fellow members, especially if you are completely unqualified
  4. Do not be inhibited to let your body function naturally while in the gym or studio. New odours can distract from the pain of the exercise routine.
  5. When attending classes do not arrive on time, but burst in late and move straight to your favourite spot even if someone else is already in it. In the unlikely event that the person does not immediately defer to your greater importance, stand your ground and make it impossible for them to exercise.
  6. If you do bump in to someone in class never ever admit that it was your fault or apologise, but glare furiously at them for being in the way.
  7. If you see tension between class participants or are involved yourself launch straight in with something like ‘There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM, but there’s a ‘U’ in C*NT’. This should effectively defuse the situation.
  8. If you are in the front of the class do try to distract the instructor and other participants by stopping frequently, checking your phone and taking water breaks. An alternative strategy is simply to put no effort in at all and dismiss the class as useless  at the end
  9. If the class is choreographed, simply ignore this and do your own thing as it will entertain those behind you and they will appreciate having to concentrate particularly hard to remember the routine.  Another particularly effective move is to stop suddenly in the middle of a packed aerobics class and watch the domino effect of people bumping in to each other. Everyone finds it hilarious
  10. Never thank the instructor at the end, it will only encourage them and make them feel they have done a worthwhile job which is likely to make them complacent and stop them trying harder.

The title of this post is a Michael Jordan quote

 My father was a wonderful writer of ditties. Everybody loved them and he had a marvellous way of delivering them. He loved poetry and throughout our childhood he would stride in to the sitting room or kitchen, wherever my mother was, and start reciting to get positive feedback. He never wanted (or required) crtisicism or suggestion, but he needed to say it out loud to get the rhythm and cadence right.

On a much smaller scale I have written Odes over the years to mark special events. Just for fun. Just to mark the occasion.  They are personal so it always helps if you know the recipient. And they are written for me to say out loud, especially when the scanning isn’t perfect but the words critical!

I wrote this one initially in 2007 for the 18 th birthday of a lovely young girl who had grown up side by side with one of our daughters,. We were all going round to the house to celebrate her coming of age so I read the Ode as a toast. Tragically, just over a year later Rosie died, suddenly and unexpectedly. We think of her and remember her all the time. For the funeral, I read the Ode again and added an Epilogue. I post it here so that Rosie is part of my blog, as she is part of my life. In life she made me smile and in death she has made me treasure every day. We are all merely hanging by a thread that can break at any moment.

Ode on the Occasion of Rosie’s 18th Birthday

with Epilogue

One night in dark December,

Contractions came a-pace

And there, a tiny little girl

Whose name is Rosie Grace

She was yellow for a little while,

But always blonde on top

And always oh so pretty,

And that has never stopped

We’ve watched her grow up year on year

And there are some tales to tell,

But loyalty being what it is,

Nat said ‘She just wasn’t feeling well’

Unwell?  said I in some concern

Was she coming down with flu?

No, just off her face in Lammas Park,

Coming home without a shoe

But that’s not a fair summation,

Of the woman here today,

Who is always kind and fun and game

And always keen to play

She’s party queen extraordinaire,

And tries not to be late

Hence fish pie in the carpet

And her room in such a state.

She’s sociable and affable,

Artistic, bright and ace

I’d like to raise our glasses now,

To Ms Dwyer, Rosie Grace

The Epilogue

 And now we are but one year on,

And gathered in St Paul’s

To remember and give almighty thanks

That we e’er knew her at all

For others aren’t so lucky,

They never had her in their world,

But we were blessed by knowing,

This loving little girl.

She’ll be clubbing now in Heaven

White Heat’s the standard Tuesday game

She’ll attract a thousand friends to love her

Like moths around a flame

Her flame that burned so brightly,

Shining light on all she met

We were privileged to have known her

And we will ne’er forget.

We will think of her and often,

When we party hard and long,

When we play games around the table

Or hear a much loved song

We’ll see bits picked out of bowls of food,

CDs not in their case,

And smile with fond remembrance

Of our cherished Rosie Grace

There is a website that celbrates her life, her Art (she was studying at Chelsea) and the charity her family have chosen to support in her name. www.rosiedwyer.co.uk

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