Borrowing Food: Minimal Length of Stay!

Health Warning: Do Not Eat when reading this! It is somewhat animal, in every sense of the word!

Many’s the tale I have told on here about my beloved border collie, Jumble – and, oft have I had cause to comment on his somewhat omnivorous nature and unwise, nay repellent, consumption.

Regularly, also, do we read about the Drunkard’s Dubious and Disgusting Art of borrowing refreshment, both liquid and solid, for short stretches of time before, as it were, repaying his  – or her: girls get pissed too, you know! – nurture, usually all over the street some moments later!

Bring these two gutter habits together and what do we get? Yes! Jumble’s latest – and, this time, I am ashamed to admit that it was ALL MY FAULT.

So: rewind to Saturday and the final day of the 2017  Six Nations, a nail-biting seven hour period with all six teams playing one another off the board, so to speak, with the England versus Ireland game being the true decider. It was decidedly inclement without – and, to be frank, I was in no mood for interruptions and had every intention of getting seriously square-eyed.

The dog’s feeding time passed by and it was only as the now infamous half hour scrum (okay, broken up from time to time by an increasingly fraught-looking Wayne Barnes) between France and Wales came to its bottom-aching end courtesy of a try followed by a conversion from the French, that I started up and rushed to the hound’s empty bowl.

Why, then, I now ask myself (with a teeth-gritting ‘the hell’ in there somewhere), did I eye up four eggs, which were approaching their sell-by date and would otherwise go to waste, and add them, raw, to the dog’s daily bowl of crunchy doodads?

What was I thinking of?! It took the minimal amount of preparation, always a plus, and went down in the minimal amount of time as well.

Canine companion sorted, I turned on the television once more and was soon gripped by the Titanic struggle between Owen Farrell and Co and the Men in Green.

What was this I could hear issuing from a near distance, however? Borborygmi of truly breathtaking decibelage and a decidedly rank odour emanating from the Man’s Best Friend.

I tried to tell myself that it was just a distant volcano cranking itself up for a bit of lava overspill, but, by this time, my eyes were watering and the poor dog was retching.

Out he went forthwith – and, with minimal fuss, multicolour-yawned all over the back garden. Five times. Believe me, I checked. One of the more unpleasant moments in a long and event-rich life! Definitely a case of better out than in.

As he ruthed, I was in and out like a fiddler’s elbow, checking the rugby score and making sure the animal had left no metaphorical stone unturned in his unloading operation and, as a side issue, that he wasn’t about to start firing from both cylinders!

The magic, if egregious, five piles proved to be enough for him – and, restored to his usual cheerful self, tail wagging happily, he lay down on the carpet as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile, the injuries on screen were growing by the minute and England was in serious trouble.

But I knew where my duty lay. Tempting though it was to hope that a squadron of local vultures would descend upon the garden and clear up the problem for me, I knew that the whole sordid mess was my fault and that I would need to get it sorted. Pronto.

A thoroughly disgusting quarter of an hour ensued, during which I nearly jettisoned my own lunch and England lost out on a back-to-back Grand Slam, but, by the end of it, the garden was egg-free. As was the dog!

But, as I shivered and shuddered out there, it occurred to me how very minimalist and unfussy animals are about this sort of thing. So unlike us! They don’t require a sick bucket, cold flannels, Lucozade by the gallon, a loving mother or their temperature taken every hour on the hour. Nay, nay: They just get on with it!

Served me right.

I am, however, off eggs at present. Can’t imagine why!

Spring Equinox Potato Cakes!

From the earliest age, I have adored baking – and have, over the years, collected an eclectic tin full of metallic pastry cutters: Animals, birds, stars and moons, they delight the eye and give the finished culinary product a lovely little twist of joyful surprise.

Yesterday, I wanted to celebrate the start of Spring by creating something. Ideally, I would have been out in the garden, digging up an area for incoming plants – but, with both legs well under par at present, the chances of my having the strength to bear down upon a metal garden implement were slim to non-existent. So, I went domestic instead.

Sitting down at the kitchen table, flour, butter, potato, rolling pin et alia by my side, I rested my left leg on a second chair and got stuck in. I tend towards the organic when it comes to cooking – and by this I don’t necessarily mean that I use all organic products; more that I rarely consult a recipe and am inclined to make it up as I go along!

So, bunging flour in with mashed potato and then pouring in a soupcon of melted butter and some water, I mixed the enticing result into a firm dough and then upended it upon my ready-floured table. Choosing an owl, a chicken, a lamb and a baby bear (don’t ask!), I set to with a will, rolling and cutting, rolling again and cutting once more and then, with those heavenly fragments we always find left over at the end, hand-rolling and patting into rough ovals.

Once finished, the whole lot went into the oven – at a low heat; I am beginning to get the hang of my eccentric Cremator! – and, twenty minutes later, golden-brown on top and smelling divine, my little Spring productions were ready to roll!

I tasted a few – just to make sure, you understand, and not because I am a human gannet who has no sense of sensible slimming techniques! – and they were exquisite!

Jumble hung around like Mary’s Little Lamb – but, after the Incident of the Scrambled Egg three days ago (about which I shall maintain a tactful silence!), I refused to give way to the beseeching eyes, the affectionate rub against knee and the, ‘I are small dog starving to death…’ looks (which all dog-owners will recognise as de rigueur  in a dog’s begging routine) and, turning a cold back upon my neglected hound, put the warm little potatoey darlings upon a wire tray to cool.

Last night, I had another small plate of them with a rather toothsome ratatouille – and that, followed by home-made raspberry ice-cream, made a thoroughly delectable gastronomic start to the Vernal season.

Poisonous People: Label?!

Wouldn’t it be great if people, like bottles of liquid, came with ready-made warning labels already emblazoned upon them? If those who represented danger, or potential poison, had the skull and crossbones label slapped upon them as soon as their malign natures began to show…

Yes, I am aware that labelling others is deemed politically incorrect – and, to a large extent, I would go along with this view, having been labelled myself all too often – but, on the other hand, there is the hidden danger of harm hidden behind a benign appearance, and we could protect ourselves more readily if that metaphorical danger label were, like a dog chip, implanted under the skin.

Of course, this is turning people into one-dimensional beings – little more than paper dolls with their clothes, carefully cut out and coloured, affixed to the shoulders by rough tags – and implying that true evil is an incontrovertible fact, as opposed to just one stage along a hotly-debated spectrum of moral, emotional and spiritual order-disorder.

This is implying that it is right, or desirable, to identify, and label – and, thus, fix, butterfly-like, to an unchanging rigid memory board – another human being based, perhaps, on one fleeting moment of moon-calf madness. To label a minor misdemeanour as a life-long malignant habit.

I know all the good, very good, reasons why labelling people is wrong. I can see, with total clarity, the damage such an act can cause – and, as a teacher, have seen the ghastly reality many a time…

…but, there are, without a shadow of a doubt, those who look angelic, and are more demonic inside, wandering around our world, wreaking havoc wherever they fetch up, whose careers would be cut short by the simple expedient of a neatly-applied label visible to everyone: These Dorian Grays whose self-absorbed beauty and dangerous, snake-like, seduction techniques would be cut very short indeed if the label included the command: ‘See the picture in the attic first!’

We do not, as a species, wear our souls on our sleeves, as it were, more’s the pity! You know where you are with a charging rhino (many miles away, if you have any sense) or a roaring lioness (inside the vehicle with the window closed tight); they do not pretend, or aspire, to be anything but themselves. Nature may very well be red and tooth and claw, but at least it is not pretending to be charm personified and lamb-like gentleness.

Yes, I think the old chip and pin system would work a treat with the more egregious of our brethren and sistren, with little warnings, easily accessed, giving the summarised version of chapter and verse: ‘Cannibal: Do not bend over the freezer or turn your back near a heat source…’ or, Partial to younger women: If he says, “Have some Madeira, M’dear…” run like the blazes!’ or, ‘Werewolf: Collect the silver in a circle and stand clear…’ or, ‘Psychopath/Narcissist: Lies for the Known Universe: Avoid!’

The clever part of the above is that it becomes entirely optional, one’s own power and choice. There is no label showing on the surface – and it is, therefore, up to the individual to decide whether to activate the hidden chip or not.

Labels for unreconstructed wrong’uns? Yes, why not!

Condoning Abuse

I freely confess that, last night – going to bed at 7.30 pm and cocooning myself in a King Sizex duvet – my mood was grim, my smile absent and my tank all-but empty. Little incidents, on top of the accident last week, have chipped away at my physical confidence, and allowed me access to unhealed scar tissue (metaphorically) which needed to be removed so that fresh blood could cleanse the site and proper healing could begin.

I have, as stated many times before, weak boundaries when it comes to other people’s behaviour and attitude towards me. I have come to call this my weak filter in that it is a sieve which lets the detritus through as well as the good stuff.

This weak filter has a serious downside, however: It causes the abused, time after time, to blur the boundaries of good sense and to allow people who have sided with the abusers – and, indeed, the abusers themselves – to Limbo-dance back under the door of their lives.  Why? Because the filter is not strong enough to say, ‘They have wronged me. They can bugger off!’ Instead, they go into a melted huddle of self-doubt, thinking, ‘What if I have read this wrong? Why can’t friends like both of us?’

In a mutually-agreed divorce/split up, it is, I think, possible to remain on good terms with both parties because sides do not have to be taken: The relationship has just run its course. However, when a marital ending involves some form of abuse, sides cannot be avoided – and, in the end, it does come down to this : One person’s word against the other. In other words, people are being asked – however unfairly in their eyes – whether they believe that Person A was abused or whether they actually think he/she insane, demented, a Drama Queen/King and making it all up. There is no other alternative. There is no way of marrying (pun deliberate) these two starkly opposing viewpoints. There is no way of remaining on more than superficially good terms with both if one is a friend or member of the wider family. There is no way of remaining close to the abused on paper if you actually side with the abuser’s way of seeing him/her – and vice versa.

For too long we allow other people to tell us that we are wrong, that it is possible to avoid taking sides. Those who side with the abuser, and give the abused sparse and superficial engagement, do not count as true friends any more. Their decision to take the easy way out indicates, to me, that they never were strong foundation friends anyway.

An element of ambivalence is possible in many relationship breakdowns. It is easy to see, in other words, that both were at fault, both contributed to the problem. But abuse is far more black and white, isn’t it? Either Person A abused Person B or he/she did not and Person B is a deluded liar. The bottom line is this: Those who side with the abuser are tacitly saying that, in their view, the abused is lying, deluded, mentally ill and losing his/her marbles. Why the hell would anyone who has been abused want such people as friends, eh? Why the hell do so many people escaping abusive relationships delude themselves on this subject for so long?!

The last thing I want to say is this – and it is stark: All abusers claim that they were provoked and will often warn their prey, ‘Don’t provoke me or else!’ But don’t we, as sentient human beings, have a duty to control our tempers where possible – and to admit that we are in the wrong when we lash out at another?

Condoning abuse because you want to believe that the abuser is incapable of such behaviour is still an act of implicit permission and approval. It is the kind of attitude which, all over the world, allows abuse and worse to continue. It is saying that it’s acceptable to behave in cruel, controlling – and, in some cases, violent – ways – or, perhaps even worse, that certain sections of society (women, children, people of different colour, belief and sexual orientation) deserve such treatment because of who, and what, they are.

It terrifies me to think that there is, apparently, this inherent and unspoken carte blanche at work in our world: That somehow it is acceptable to make abusive comments, or launch unprovoked attacks, upon the LGTB community, women, people whose religious beliefs do not accord with our own. That, in some sick and twisted way, this does not count as bona fide abuse and is seen, by some, as just desserts. That, to belong to a certain sub-section of society is reason enough to be attacked. That blame is cast upon a whole religion, or nation, for a war that happened a thousand years ago. And, finally, that the ultimate provocation is triggered by who or what you are rather than anything you have said or done.

As long as we, corporately and individually, are fudging this issue, and saying, ‘That’s not really abusive because he/she/it deserved it…’ we will continue to allow abusers into our homes, schools, churches, workplaces and positions of extreme authority. As long as we see charm of manner and good looks as proof of decent character and integrity, we will miss the paedophiles who crawl into our children’s beds at dead of night. As long as we blame the abused and protect the abusive, the darkness will continue to grow. As long as we allow the weapon of ‘reasonable’ doubt to win, on the grounds of fear (of giving offence; of getting it wrong; of enraging the mighty and powerful), the current level of wide-spread abuse will continue to flourish and expand.

Abuse is abuse. Nothing warrants it. No provocation is sufficient excuse. It is wrong.

Divorce: The Death of Hope and Romantic Illusion


Divorce is a death experience, a sundering of far more than a relationship. It is a preview of some aspects of that final walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in that it strips artifice from you and forces you to face dark and unwelcome truths. It is a severance, a wound, a move from one state to another, very different, one – analogous, in many respects, to that final move into an entirely new, and mysterious, realm.

‘Reader, I married him!’ I noted, in stunned joy, on July 28th 1997 as, five months pregnant and garlanded with freesias, I sat down to complete my diary account of the wedding. Did I entertain hopes? Of course I did! What bride doesn’t? Was I labouring under the romantic illusion of perfect love and soul-mate togetherness? Of course I was! How else was I to ignore the dark streaks already edging their way onto the canvas of the relationship? I was not the first woman to think that marriage and a child would fill in the gaps with love’s cement, nor will I be the last.

Unlike many, however, I kept hope alive and some semblance of romantic illusion simmering far longer than was healthy, constantly casting myself in the role of mad, dysfunctional, nasty witch in order to preserve the specious perfection, to believe in the wounded innocence, to empathise with the damaged soul, of the man I had married. I needed to see him as Mr. Rochester, blinded and hurt by a previous marital fire and scorching, because I did not want to admit that there was far more – and, ironically, far less! – to it than that.

Now, nine months after the Decree Absolute, I am numb, mourning, dulled, yet sparking – at some very deep level – with a strange form of grief. I do not miss the man himself, but I do miss the foolish, girlish hope and excitement (for it was, in its own way, addictive); I do miss the romantic-novel-inspired illusions; I do miss what could have been – even though I now know that it couldn’t.

But also I am saddened by a sense of failure – because I went into that marriage thinking it was for life, determined to make it work, committed to this man and, for reasons I won’t go into now, absolutely determined that I would never be unfaithful to him. It wasn’t for life. I could not, ultimately, make it work. My commitment to him wavered as a result of repeated emotional and mental abuse. And yet, and yet, for all that I could have taken other men as lovers, I never did. I couldn’t bring myself to cross that particular line, never even came close to it.

I do blame myself, though I am not quite sure why – except that the habit of self-blame goes so deep and is so pervasive that it has become like a default setting. I suppose I blame myself for not being the right kind of woman for him; for allowing behaviour which he claims I provoked; for being half of a situation which our child had to grow up in; for not being perfect, good enough, able to stand up for myself.

I had, in the end, to go No Contact – as the saying goes. It was the only way. And this I have adhered to: In the three months since I moved here, I have had no dealings with this man.

Perhaps the death of innocence has been the most wounding aspect of this whole sorry affair – and the knowledge that I read someone close to me so disastrously wrong; that I allowed good looks and charm to hypnotise me to such an extent.

But still it hurts. Still I feel that I have failed – as a woman, as a wife, as a sister, an in-law, a mother – because those fairy-tale words, ‘And they lived happily ever after…’ still have such sway over the silly, sweet, sugary imaginations of young girls, don’t they? And, as girls, I think we do feel that we have to be the cement that keeps the marital edifice in one strong piece: That it is up to us to make sure that our men do not stray, or get bored, or get angry or find anything to distract them from that which they promised as rings were exchanged and Holy Wedlock celebrated. And, as girls, I think too many of us are still brought up to believe that any crack in a relationship is our fault for being too wilful, insufficiently obedient and submissive; that we bring disaster upon ourselves by aping, at whatever level, the masculine role.

So: I mourn. I question myself. I ask whether I was too lively and loud, too fiery and frantic, too this, too that to be pleasing to a man. And I wonder, privately (as, I am sure, all abused women do at some point), whether I deserved to have my wings clipped; whether some defect in my character meant that I merited emotional punishment and constant control.

Parts of me are now fluttering uncertainly back to life. Other parts remain in deep hibernation, a kind of wintry faux-death. The tombstone of the marriage, with its dates of birth and death etched raw in the grey surface, taunts me. Its sad ghost haunts. I weep.

My Books: Conquering the fear of being thought pushy…

It hit me, seeing the word ‘conquer’, that there is a huge barrier between me and getting my books out – and it is this I need to conquer: the fear of being thought big-headed, arrogant, repetitive, unfeminine, untalented and delusional; the fear of pushing myself forward, of being brash and insensitive.  I cannot conquer the world of literature if I am not able to conquer my own dark and foetid fears, to break free from the restrictions, originally germinated in others, which I enforce upon myself.

If I cannot conquer my terror of being read and disapproved of, read and disliked, read and scorned, how can I hope to persuade anyone else to read my words?

I wrote the words below, 70% conquered by this thought: ‘No one will want to read about my books…’

But, in a genuine attempt at vaulting this barrier, I am sending my post out again with the prompt attached. Doing this brings profound anxiety, but I will not be held back by my own fears and inhibitions any longer. I will conquer this!

This is me – and this person lies behind all of the novels, blogs and diaries I have written. Some writers are distinct from their creations. I am not of their number!

Each one of my books represents a part of my personality, or a facet of my wide-ranging interests; each book is a key to my character’s bureau. This is, I am sure, true of every author (whether published or not) and I am not claiming anything new or revolutionary in penning these words – just that such a conceit has only just occurred to me.

I have always had a flourishing inner bawd – since well before I knew what such a concept, such a word, meant – and was one of those, no-doubt-tiresome, little girls who could be relied upon to pass on the most vulgar limericks to her primary school classmates. The humour inherent in sexuality and sexual congress (heehee!) was obvious to me well before I surrendered (with no reluctance) my maidenhood. I am, in many ways, unreconstructed, rude, vulgar and, to some, downright offensive. So, ‘Come Laughing!‘ was, in many ways, inevitable – a series of thoughts and feelings just waiting for me to be old enough to write down; just waiting, I should perhaps say, for me to pass through the ‘giving a shit what people think’ phase and out the other side!

I have always had a ripe, robust, ribald, raucous – and, some would say, inappropriate! – sense of humour, and was able to see the funny side of secondary school teaching very quickly. I could have written a far more serious novel than ‘LLB’ had I chosen to do so because there is much about the education system that infuriates, upsets and worries me. But, while my reactions are, I think, very clear to read, albeit subliminally or as a kind of buzzing sub-text, I have chosen to wrap them up in a light-hearted and colourful literary duvet cover!

Since childhood, I have loved, and studied to degree level, literature: Poetry, prose, plays – all grist to my mill. And, as someone who did History A’level, and had an abiding interest in history anyway, the lives and times of my favourite authors absorbed and intrigued me. My fascination with the Bloomsbury Group – and particularly the splendid Stephen sisters, Vanessa and Virginia (who became Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf when married) – started when I was at university and I read most of the books then available about their lives. I identified especially strongly with Woolf (whom many people said I resembled as a young woman) – and it was, perhaps, unsurprising, that my first full-length novel, ‘Riding at the Gates of Sixty’, should have been a re-telling of parts of her story through the eyes of Vanessa, Virginia herself and her husband, Leonard Woolf. By a sublime irony, given that we were both born in January, I am now almost exactly the age VW was when she killed herself (on March 28th 1941) – and am, indeed, myself now riding at the gates of sixty!

Another part of me is an enduring love of landscape, of seasons, of the tides and times of the Moon – and this has come out in most of my novels as a backdrop. But, in ‘The Lyre of Logres’, I pay homage not just to the physical landscape, but also to its mystical counterpart, the ancient land of Logres. This book, which consists of many short stories, also draws upon my life as part of the Pagan community (for want of a better word).

The Pagan link is made much more specific in my fifth book ‘My Esoteric Journey Volume 1′, in that I discuss much more openly the journey I have taken, from training in the Craft Tradition with Paddy Slade, through my association with SOL and ritual magic and on to my links with the Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

My output has been eclectic, to say the least, and this has had both positive and negative results. On the one hand, I am difficult to categorise because I do not stick to the one genre; on the other, there is a versatility and freshness about my work (though I say so myself) which is, I think, appealing – and, for all that I do not adhere to any one tradition, I think I have an easily recognisable style, an Alienora way of writing!

As some of you will be aware, I have five copies of each book being shipped over from the US – and am hoping to find a home for some of them in the local area.

Have a look, if you haven’t already:

Laughter, pain and the kindness of friends…

I had a booking at a school yesterday – and, despite my nasty fall on Wednesday, was determined to go in and teach. Until, that is, I woke up and found I could barely bend my right knee and that my left ankle had swollen up even more and was going multi-coloured.

I decided instead, to drive, very carefully, down to the local Minor Injuries Unit and get my afflicted, traumatised parts x-rayed.

Getting there at just after eight in the morning was good in one way (the place was virtually empty) and bad in another (x-ray doesn’t open till nine), but it was surprisingly pleasant just lolling around, albeit in a fair amount of pain, doing nothing.

A nurse called me at 8.30 and had a good look at both injuries. She tweaked my knee (painful, but necessary) and said that I’d need to get the ankle x-rayed, but that the knee was just badly bruised and a little bit abraded.

My ankle had its picture taken from two different angles – and I was then told to go back to the Waiting Room while someone looked at, and deciphered, the resulting images.

Hobbling back, I came upon a scene of great cheer and hilarity. Cheered me up no end, it did. Two pupils, from one of the schools I have taught at in recent weeks, had injured themselves  – in separate accidents, I hasten to add – and had fetched up, each with a parent, at more or less the same time. Both were able to see the funny side of what had happened to them and, instead of groans and tears, the atmosphere was full of jollity and raucous laughter – which I joined with great relief! By the time I was called to see my original nurse, I felt I had known these people for far longer than twenty minutes (or whatever it was) – and I wished both the young people good luck as I limped slowly to the cubicle.

To my relief, there was no obvious sign of a recent fracture, just two tiny marks which, I am certain, occurred during one of the many similar incidents years ago. This meant that I did not have to go down the Plaster of Paris, hideous boot road – and, for all that a sprain, ironically, takes longer to heal than a fracture, this was a great relief.

Instead, I opted for the bandages and crutches combination. I was told to rest my legs, not to drive if at all possible and to come back in five days or so to get my bits looked at.

I must say crutch technology has come on in leaps and bounds (which is a damn sight more than I am currently capable of) since the last time I had them (after breaking an ankle falling upstairs when trying to impress a boy I fancied back in my first term at university in 1976!) – and, while I won’t claim my eventual departure from the hospital was conducted in a series of adagios and pas-de-deux moves, I did manage to make it to the car park without jettisoning a crutch or twisting the other ankle.

I will confess that I had a brief moment of weeping and feeling sorry for myself – but my body knew what it both wanted and needed and I slept, deeply and dreamlessly, for about three and a half hours.

I had some really lovely comments, both on here and on Facebook. Thank you to all those who wrote to me. I will respond personally, but maybe not today.

As I lounged around in the armchair (my favourite seat in the house ), I realised how frantic, even manic, I have been since I moved to Glastonbury just under three months ago. It is as if I have been trying to prove something – though quite what and to whom I am not sure – or, perhaps, trying hard not to let waves of grief, sadness and loss overwhelm me. I have been busy, busy, busy, creating a new career, making new friends, walking Jumbs and exploring my area, sorting out house and garden and so on.

It felt wrong to be just sitting there doing nothing – as if I were wasting precious time or something; as if I needed to give myself permission to just be there, doing nothing more exacting than reading.

Later, a lovely local friend came round, bringing books and rhubarb and offers to help (which I accepted). I was very touched, by this and by another friend’s support this morning. I do not know why I find it so hard to ask for assistance, why I am so stubbornly independent and, in many ways, private; but I do know that it does not always serve me to shut people out in this way through guilt and fear of being too much, too demanding.

I have an appointment at the hospital next week, to get my left hand swelling looked at by the Orthopaedic team, so will combine that with a repeat visit to Minor Injuries. My friend has already said she can drive me there, which is such a wonderful relief and so kind of her.

Now? I need to sit tight and relax. The day is bright and beautiful. There is nothing urgent I need to do, having for the first time in my life ordered my weekly shop online, so I can luxuriate in the books loaned to me, loll around and let my body (and mind) heal.

Small note: I found that image of a sprained ankle on line, not being sufficiently mobile at that point to photograph my own injury – but mine is almost identical in appearance.