Make the invisible visible

I love Amazon, especially the quirky, eccentric stuff. I’ve been glancing at the offerings in their pre-sale sale (don’t ask) and I have fallen in love with two items after which I lust.

First of all, there’s a paper shredder.I need a new paper shredder. My last one died when I tried to shred two sheets of paper – so flimsy you could wrap of jewels in them- jammed in the works.It whined and coughed, spat out a wodge of mutilated paper, and then gave up the ghost.

That won’t happen with the Bosch 2200. I reckon it could reduce sheet steel to metal porridge in no time. It has a 2000 watt motor – you could fit it in a racing car. It has a 40 millimetre cutting blade that could do a decent job on the Forth Bridge. This is a paper shredder For Men ! And it costs three hundred quid. Maybe not then, eh.

The other gem is a torch. It’s multipurpose. You can use it as an ordinary torch or you can switch on  the Ultra Violet beam –  then it becomes something to behold.

It can make the invisible visible. It can:

Authenticate currency.

Reveal dried urine stains of dogs on carpets, rugs or clothes

Easily spot scorpions

This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life. I’ve always felt there was something dodgy about our banknotes – the new ones are even worse. They are obviously cut from oil cloth and handpainted with water colours. I’ve wondered for years – now I shall find out.

As for revealing dried urine stains – I’d never thought of that – perhaps dogs have been creeping into our sitting room at night and relieving themselves on the rug. I don’t you…

And I shall know if we have scorpions. I think that maybe we have. I sometimes hear a tiny pattering in the corridor, a distant hissing noise. Scorpions are clever little devils. They exude a protein which makes them completely invisible in normal light, but in UV light they stand before you naked and ashamed. This torch will save my life.

And it’s only a fiver.


Side effects

Side effects

Danger ! This course of action
may seriously damage your health !

There are reports of dizziness,
a spinning sensation in the early stages.

You may become restless and irritable.
Weight loss may occur in many cases.
You may experience difficulty in breathing.
Light headedness and confusion are common –
giddy euphoria, sudden inexplicable despair.

Many people experience long term heart problems.

But that’s always the way of it
with love.

Which witch ?

Sylvia ? It’s me darling. Listen.
I want to ask the most enormous favour.
I’ve heard from Big Mac again! Yes !
He wants another seance –
still has issues around his career development plan
going forward.
He wants to come round tonight !
Just a little kitchen supper like before.
Could you have a word with Susie ?
See is she could make it as well –
and tell her to bring her leotard.
That Progressive Dance thing she does
really gets the spirits going.

No. My real problem is the food.
I’ve got some fenny snake in the freezer
and there are some newts’ eyes and frogs’ toes
left over from last time.
But I’m totally out of wolfs’ teeth and bats’ wool.
I don’t suppose you’ve got any, have you ?
And if you haven’t
could you teeter down to Waitrose and get some ?
They have some lovely artisanal stuffed bats
and you can pluck a bunch of fur
whenever you need it.

I’d go myself
but I have to collect Piers from his playgroup.

Be a darling.

Man and Dog



The dog plays football every day
with me, along the passageway.
We pass the ball from dog to man
and then from man to dog again.
I’m bored as hell. It pleases him
for dogs are slow and somewhat dim.


The man plays football every day
with me, along the passageway.
He tries so hard, it’s rather sweet
for one who’s blessed with two left feet.
It keeps him happy; I don’t mind.
I’ve grown quite fond of human kind.

Man and Dog

We both hate football.

How much happier we would be
watching cricket on tv.

Moments from a parallel universe

Isac ! Your lunch is ready.
Stop moping in that orchard !
Go and wash your hands !
Unheard unseen
the apple falls.

It’s a message, Will,
from the Queen.
She likes the play
but could you make Hamlet
a bit more cheerful……
and alive at the end..

I shall call her Luisa.
If it had been a boy, my husband
would have called him Adolf.
Honey, I got to stay late at the Oval Office tonight –
can’t make the theatre.
Okay Abe

Aggressive Squirrels


I love surreal headlines “ Man jailed in wire case”, “ There are no nails in cheese, say police.” That kind of thing. But I could never have hoped for anything so unlikely, so bizarre as “ School playground evacuated on account of unusually aggressive squirrel. “

But that was the headline in several papers yesterday.

I’ve never thought of squirrels as anything other than furry, cheeky chappies who run up trees and promote road safety. I wondered how aggressive squirrels are in general. Do they hang around the school gates, flicking their nuts at passers-by? Do they ride their chopper bikes over the rounders pitch? Do they make dark threats ? “ You want some action punk ,huh ? “ Gimme your dinner money, kid, or the My Little Pony gets it ! “

Then I noticed it was just one squirrel. You can imagine the type- born on the wrong side of the tracks, wears a (furry) biker jacket, chews gum a lot. How could one squirrel wreak such havoc that a whole school of small children was hurried back inside the school building ? Did he kick over the waste bins ? Pull a rude sign at Miss ?

And once they were inside – were they safe ? I could imagine thirty children hiding under their desks, shaking with terror. There is a terrible silence, then little footsteps pattering down the corridor. They pause outside the classroom door. The kids hold their breath. More footsteps, silence.

Then an almighty crash. Axe blows and splintering wood. Then a small furry face, sneering and full of hatred.

“ Heeeeere’s Tufty !”

Where are you now, Mrs Joan Huyton ?



As a result of The Great Linked-In Blagging (the world now knows my email, my old password and the size of my socks) I have made the acquaintance of a Mrs Joan Huyton. Or rather, she has come into my inbox. Or rather she and I have become interchangeable.

You see, I get her junk email, and presumably, she gets mine. I rather think the kind offers to increase the size of a certain part of my anatomy do actually belong to me ( You do WHAT with the steel weights ?) as does the invitation to drive a World War II tank in Devonshire. But as for some of the other stuff…well… I’m not so sure.

A careful look through Mrs Joan Huyton’s junk email has allowed me to build up a picture of this doughty lady. She is a keen shopper- supermarket chains are falling over each other to offer her “ Free Shopping for a Year !” She drinks lots of coffee and thus qualifies for…you’ve guessed it…free coffee for a year if she solves this simple anagram and completes a three page survey on where, when and why she drinks coffee and how many times a food item ( Chelsea bun ? Sausage roll ?) is involved.

But there is more to this innocent shopper with a coffee habit. She spends. Bigtime. I’ve no idea what she spends her money on ( apart from coffee and buns) but the payday loan sharks are pestering her to take out a loan at a trivial 12,345 % interest.

And then there’s the plumbing course. It drops into my/her inbox every Monday morning. “Make a Fresh Start ! “ it says, “ Set up Your Own Plumbing Business ! Be a Plumber” I can’t see it somehow. I have this vision of Mrs Joan Huyton as a lady of a certain age, and size, who wears sensible shoes and the sort of clothes which cover more than they reveal. I cannot see her kneeling under someone’s sink, fiddling with their stopcock. She is also a bit shortsighted, as the “ 2 for 1” offer from the opticians testifies. Which might cause unpleasantnesses.

She used to do yoga, but has given it up ( the group leader is begging her to return) She is financially innocent- dubious agencies beg the pleasure of getting back dodgy insurances from the bank…

I could go on, but decency forbids.

I have tried to unsubscribe her junkmail- but of course, that turns the flow into a torrent.

Maybe it will just fade away. Maybe Mrs Joan Huyton will go out of my life forever.

On the other hand, there could be an email, a DM, a phone call… a knock at the door… and she will be there, in her sensible shoes, a spanner in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other….

The Panzerschredder

Shredders ! Doncha love ‘em ! I bought a new one this morning because my last one had finally given up the ghost. It was a mean-spirited, wimpy thing made out of thin plastic that did nothing but make a self-pitying whine and whinge if I asked it shred anything more sturdy than a couple of sheets of fine tissue paper.

So I’ve got this new one. It’s bigger, black and somehow more…manly.

Before I set it up, I happened to glance at the instructions on the box- in four languages-English, German, French, and something full of vowels which I will call Dutch. It’s fascinating how national differences spring out from the tiniest pieces of text.

The English description is short, straightforward and to the point:

“6 sheet paper cross cut shredder”

Well, you can’t argue with that. The German description was much more allusive:

“ Sechs Blatt CrosscutAktentvernichter”

Six pages is obvious, as is the borrowed “ Cross cut” – but Aktenvernichter ! Do you know what it means ? Have you any idea ? It means “Destroyer” – this thing will destroy your Acts ! In fact it’s worse than that- “vernichten” means to annihilate, to reduce to nothing !
I’m looking at the black box under my desk with new respect. Is it some kind of Panzerschredder ? Have I just brought Death The Destroyer Of Worlds back from Staples Stationery Store ?

The French have a more flamboyant view:

“6 feuilles destructeur de documents a coupe croisse”

That’s got real style, don’t you think ? “ feuilles” for a start- which means “leaves” and not “pages”.” And the destructeur de documents is obviously a character from the “ The three Musketeers”- probably one of Richelieu’s bad boys.

“ Aha Monsieur, I, the Destroyer of Documents, will shred your paltry leaves with my cross cut Wiff ! Waff ! “

But I really like the Dutch version:

“6 vel papierverschnipperer”

This is a character from Hans Christan Andersen, isn’t it ? The thin,sharp eyed Papierverschnipperer- a kind of Dutch Edward Scissor Hands- who snips every bit of papier- 6 vels at a time. He would make a good excuse for Dutch schoolchildren, wouldn’t he ? “ I’m sorry, Meinheer, but the Papierverschnipperer cut up my homework !”

I’m looking at it now. It’s waiting, maw open wide, motor throbbing…it could have my arm off…don’t worry, I’ll be careful …I’ll….agh !”

The impediment

The internet died. I fired up the iBook as usual. Nothing. So I went to the little diagnosis thingy. Three greens. “Houston, we are go for launch.” Then I saw the two lights that Houston are responsible for. They were a menacing red. That meant I had to talk to Cheerful Lady.. I’d talked to her before. I have to talk to her every time the internet dies. This was the second time in a month. Cheerful Lady has a voice like a dental drill and a touching, but spurious, tone which suggests that there are cohorts of engineers, ready to stride into battle on my behalf.

“If yew wunt to hear about are latist offers, pleeze press wan; if yew wunt to pay yore beel, press two….”

I waited for option six “ if yew are having a few slight ishooz…”

Then I listened to the scratchy rendition of Vivaldi”s Four Seasons for five minutes, until…damn ! I’d forgotten..

“We can get yew help more quickly if yew press the…third letter of your password on your telephone keypad…and now the fifth letter…”

Password ? What password ? I forgot my  internet password the moment the bloke set it up four years ago…I don’t remember passwords…half the time I can’t remember my own name…


I scrabbled in my desk to find the tattered cribsheet where all my passwords are written down…Why did I have a password for a petfood company ? Why was it “bonzodog” ?

When I went back to the phone Cheerful Lady had hung up, which was sad because her call was really important to me.


I re-dialled ,went through the voicemail tree all over again, and ended up talking to someone who sounded suspiciously like a real human being.

“There’s been an impediment.”

“Pardon ?”

“An impediment on the line. We are working on it”

I suddenly saw the internet as a huge Victorian railway tunnel, with a horde of sturdy navvies in waistcoats and flat caps, hurrying into the darkness to remove a wagon loaded with offers to increase the size of your bank balance, or a part of your anatomy.

“ Will it last long, the impediment ?”

“It might cause  an intermittent interruption over the next few days.”

“An intermittent impediment”

“ That’s right.”

“ Ah..”

“ Sir…would you like a discount on your next bill ?


All my irritation faded in a moment. He was a real human being, all right- dealing with the fifty seventh old buffer who’d phoned to complain in the last hour.

“ Thank you, “ I said, “ That would be nice”


I’m going to post this now- quickly- before the impediment returns.

Who’s first on the desert island ?

UA Fanthorpe.

She didn’t like her first name, which was Ursula, and was hence always called “UA.” She taught English at Cheltenham College for 16 years and then left to be a secretary and receptionist at Bristol hospital. It was there that the patients, their anonymous suffering and  quiet lives, provoked her to write.

She writes about “ the permanently rickety, elaborate structures of living” which we all create to maintain our lives and relationships. Her style is modest ,deceptively  simple and shockingly powerful. She describes a life of out-patient appointments,visits to X-ray, family visits, and ultimately death- the last scene of all.

“…..there the actor lies

Alone, and in the long dim hours explores

Dissolving senses .”


“ Patient, she sat in a wheelchair

in an x-ray department waiting

for someone to do something to her”

Notice the ambiguity of “ patient”, the pause after “waiting” and the hopelessness of “someone” and “something.” And what about the simple language, which gives you just enough to see the picture, but leaves you, the reader, to create the emotion behind it.

But you would  be wrong to think that her work was relentlessly glum. She had a sharp sense of humour. She  inhabits other times and places, explores territory you think you’re familiar with, and gives it a twist, releasing something fresh and funny as she does so.

She describes Christ, frustrated at his dim disciples, trying to get them to understand what he means:

“I am tattooing God on their makeshift lives” he says, “ My Keystone Cops of disciples , always/ running absurdly away or lying.”

She conflates the Royal Family and the Archers:

“They’re loyal to their fans, they never stray.

Death changes the cast list, but not the play.”

And sometimes she writes something  so simple, so powerful, that creeps up on you and hits you in the solar plexus.

Have a look here.

This is one of her best. I challenge you to read it aloud without filling up

Step right this way, UA- the palm trees are over here.