It's A 1dRfl Life

I WAS telling my young niece that there was no such thing as mobile/cell phones when I was a child. She looked at me open-mouthed in that horror-struck way young children have when presented with astonishing news by ancient relatives. 

She’d have been less surprised if I’d told her I was the one who started the Great Fire of London. I hardly dared mention that when I was young every single phone looked exactly the same - a huge lump of black bakelite with a silver dial that would sprain your wrist if you tried to lift it. Not only that, but many houses didn’t have a phone at all. 

The better half lived in a village. His family didn’t have a phone but there was a telephone kiosk at the end of his courtyard. He said he and his sisters answered the phone if they heard it and then carried messages to people throughout the village. 

Young people these days know nothing of these trials and tribulations as they all have a phone permanently welded to their hand. And, by the way, I don’t know why a 16-year-old who can babble away like a mynah bird on speed to their friends can only manage an inarticulate grunt when asked a question by their parents. 

If they’re not talking into it, they’re writing away at the rate of knots in some kind of gobbledegook which I’m led to believe, is known as “text speak”. It all seems a waste of two perfectly good opposable thumbs, if you ask me, which they could be using to tidy up their bedrooms or bake a cake for their beloved aunt (me).

Heaven help you if they actually send you a text. By the time I’ve figured out what the hell they're talking about, they've turned up at my door expecting their dinner.  How was I supposed to know that they were cumin (no, not the Indian spice but "coming") because they were *vin (starving. Star-vin, get it?).

1dRfl, I'm told, is wonderful and ilbl8 is I’ll be late. There are hundreds more of these tortuous abbreviations which all young people seem to know by some kind of osmosis from the moment their parents pay for their first phone.

Well I have a message for these teenagers, rtpprEulzgts. Write proper English, you lazy gits. 

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Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde - not the man and me. In any case,
he'd never lift me. #SevenStoneWeakling #BigFatMomma

Watching Bonnie and Clyde on TV.

Me: Shall we set off on a murder spree around the country?

The Man: Don't be stupid... who would feed the cat?

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No Time For Tea - Too Busy Learning Nuclear Physics

AS I gallop towards the twilight of my years I avidly read any article that tells me how to hold back the ravages of time. Hopefully there are a few more years before I am pushing my Zimmer frame towards the sofa to settle down to watch daytime television with my milky cup of tea and bowl of prunes (have to keep regular). 

I'm considering taking up nuclear physics for nerds or brain surgery for beginners. 

You see, I was always quite hopeful that my brain would stay relatively sharp because various articles told me that doing crosswords kept senility at bay. I love crosswords – even those obscure cryptic ones.

“How on earth did you get that?” the better half asked me the other day, as I worked out that the answer to “deer controller employs English guy behind the scenes” was “stage manager”. I tried to explain that: 

Stick the E for the English in the middle of "stag" and "manager" and you get “stage manager”
I.e. the “guy behind the scenes”.

He stared at me. “Sorry,” he said, “All I heard was blah, blah, blah.” I didn’t like to tell him (a cabinetmaker) that I spend my life hearing “blah, blah, blah” when he starts wittering on about spindle moulders, edgebanders, routers and visits to the saw doctor.

I mean, what does a saw doctor actually do? I have visions of a handsaw, badly damaged after an accident with a careless chisel, lying on a table while a man in an overall tries to fix its shattered teeth before wrapping it in bandages.

Oh dear, senility seems to have kicked in already. I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. Oh yes, keeping my brain in good working order.

Sadly for me, a study found that doing crosswords is not enough for the over 60s to keep their brains sharp, as I have so often read. It is much better to learn new skills. The important word is “new”. You must get out of your comfort zone. Not only that, you must continuously challenge yourself.

As Dr Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas, who led the study, said: “When you are inside your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone.” I almost heard “blah, blah, blah” in that quote but I think I know what she means.

Researchers found that those learning new skills showed more improvement in memory than those taking part in non-active or social activities. Dr Park said: “This is speculation but what if challenging mental activity slows the rate at which the brain ages? Every year you save could be an added year of high quality life and independence.”

So I’ve started looking through all those evening class brochures to see if I can learn anything new.  Brain surgery and nuclear physics are sadly lacking on the curriculum. I certainly won’t be quilting (five thumbs on each hand) but photography sounds appealing. Or I might learn a foreign language - îmi iubesc pisica.

And if there’s a course in saw doctoring, edgebanding or spindle-moulding then I’m all over it like a rash.

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How to Piss Me Off

Angry? Me?

I HAPPENED across a post on the internet called How To Piss Off A Londoner.

It wasn't a very good article, including things that would piss off anyone - queue jumpers, litter louts, people walking slowly on busy pavements, that kind of thing.

Like no one living anywhere else in the world is bothered by queuing for 20 minutes only to have some cross-eyed oik with B.O. insert their body between them and the next person along.

And, yes, Mr Moron, please drop your Macdonald's carton with half eaten burger likely to attract rats right outside my house, I don't mind a bit.

People walking slowly on the pavement or, worse, ambling in the supermarket, annoy the hell out of me. I want to shout, GET OUT OF MY WAY, YOU DAWDLING DUNDERHEAD, but I'm far too polite and make do with a semi-audible tut.

But the article got me thinking about the things that do piss me off. First off, assumptions. I may be a woman of a certain age but I am busy all day long. I haven't yet broken out the Sanatogen Tonic Wine to sip with my Rich Tea biscuit as I fall asleep watching Countdown so don't assume you know what my life is like. I have a triathlete sister who represents Great Britain. She is 74. Tell her it's time she started to slow down at your peril.

I don't want advertisers telling me how I should be spending my money, assuming all I want to do is save for a funeral plan or sign away my house in some shifty equity release. I don't need a stairlift, a walk-in bath or a little gadget that picks up things off the floor for me because I can't bend down . When that time comes, I'll let you know.

Until then, I'll spend the whole lot on cocaine and toy boys if I want to. The fact that I wouldn't know cocaine from sherbet dab or that any self-respecting toy boy wouldn't come within 100 yards of me is irrelevant. I like to keep my options open.

As a baby boomer I am also pissed off with being blamed for all the perceived ills of the younger generation as if it's all my fault that they find it difficult to afford a house. The only way the better half and I could afford to get a foot on the housing ladder was by working every hour that God sent to scrape together a bit of money and then working our fingers to the bone to build it ourselves. Get rid of that £1,000-plus iPhone, cut down on the nights out, holiday in Bognor rather than the Bahamas and you're on the way to saving up for a deposit.

Then there are those black eyebrows with square corners (what IS all that about), people who repost any old crap on Facebook without checking it out, posts/emails/tweets without any punctuation, people telling me to cheer up it might never happen, butter too hard to spread on bread, impossible to open blister packs, people who don't say thank you for some little courtesy, dog shit on pavements, motorists who don't park in the centre of parking bays, people who drive two inches from my bumper and people who drive too slowly, unsolicited phone calls, wet spoons in the sugar bowl, people who continually check their phone when they're with you, reality TV...

...and a million other things that qualify me for the Grumpy Old Woman tag, but I'll leave it there for now. That Bargain Hunt won't watch itself and I have a packet of custard creams with my name on.

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Staying Alive

Dear Caption Writer,

Think about it........! "Pictured here while she was still alive"? Ya don't say.......

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A New Lease Of Life

I AM kind of retired. By "kind of" I mean I no longer have a full-time employer and have cast myself adrift to live on the laughable amount that passes as a pension in this country, augmented by various bits of freelance work.
Having worked full-time for nearly 40 years I thought I deserved the chance to ease up a bit on the daily grind.  
I was asked yesterday what I found to do with myself all day long.  Let's put aside the 20 to 30 hours I spend a week on freelance work, the rest of the time I keep very gainfully employed, thank you very much.
As a kind-of-retired woman, I could say I have managed to spring-clean the house from top to bottom, made the garden worthy of inspection by Alan Titchmarsh, decorated the sitting-room, reorganised all the cupboards and managed to fit in the odd little DIY job that has needed doing for years. I could say that, but I would be lying.
I had intended to do all those things - and I have made a half-hearted start on some of them but the hall cupboard is still piled high with “things that might come in useful one day” and I still have to give the excuse that my garden is a wildlife haven if anyone raises an eyebrow at the weeds.
I would like to say the mad morning scramble has disappeared as the better half's packed lunch is done the night before and I know exactly what I am going to put into his sandwiches as I have my weekly menu plan to refer to - and I'm no longer scraping specks of mould off the bread because I didn't have time to pop to the shop. I'm not frantically ironing his last clean shirt or "airing" it with the hair-dryer. I'd like to say all that is true. But it's not.
So my answer to the person who asked me what I found to do all day was simply a vague: "I manage to keep really busy."
That much is true. I am occasionally found busy napping. I sit down with my bowl of soup at lunchtime, switch on the television and the next thing I know, Escape to the Country is on and my soup is stone cold.
I'm often busily catching up on the latest “must read” book on my Kindle. I can now look down The Times best seller list and say I’ve read one or two of them. So that’s educational, right?  These days I actually have time to read the Sunday papers and I am an expert on world politics, celebrities and global warming. And I know a few singers in the Top Ten even though I have knickers older than they are.
I keep busy surfing the net and must now have watched every "hilarious" cat video on YouTube. I've stumbled upon a site called Stumbleupon which throws up random websites according to your interests. "I'll just look at one more before I start the housework," I say to myself. Half an hour later I'm entranced by a site called Foods That Will Regrow from Kitchen Scraps. Did you know that if you save the root end of a head of celery, put it in water, wait for roots and leaves to appear and then plant it in the garden, a new plant will appear? Not that I've actually tried any of the tips yet, but they are on my "to do" list.
Then there are trips here and there with friends and family with brunches, lunches and snacks to be consumed. There are people to visit and shopping to be done and I can stroll around shops rather than run.
Yes, semi-retirement is a joy. But I must remember not to keep banging on to my working friends about the really tough day I’ve had visiting the garden centre. They don’t seem to like that for some reason.

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Feeling Blue About Genes

How I think I look (left); how I actually look (right).

YOU see those ads for genetic tests all over the TV. One gob of spit and someone can tell you that your ancestors are a mixture of Outer Mongolian, Native American, Australian aborigine with, I'm pretty sure in my case, the lion's share of Common Peasant.

I live in Devon in the UK, a county that shares a border with Cornwall, so I was surprised to read that genetically I have little in common with my Cornish cousins. I have more in common with Anglo Saxons than Celts, which upsets me because I have always believed that underneath my short dumpy exterior was a tall, red-headed, feisty warrior woman trying to get out.

Unfortunately, what I actually am is a stumpwort to the bone. This is a term coined for the local people by poet Sylvia Plath when she came to live in Devon with husband and later poet laureate Ted Hughes. It doesn't sound a very flattering term but it is a wonderful word! I’m not sure what was in her mind but in my stumpwort brain it conjured up people who were short, dark, didn’t mind living in inhospitable places - and were possibly poisonous. That’s OK. I can live with that.

So what, I wonder, are the characteristics of us Devonian stumpworts? From personal experience I should say our good points are that we are, generally speaking, hard-working, stoic and loyal.

We stumpworts are not given to wild outpourings of emotion but espouse that stiff upper lip - far better in my opinion than that kind of emotional diarrhoea that makes people bare their most private souls on TV and the internet these days. No, give me a stiff upper lip any day. I much prefer repression to expression and I don't care that psychologists say that "keeping it in" is bad for you. I believe that letting it all out is even worse.  Every day I am subjected to some private outpouring that I think would have been much better kept behind closed doors. 

If I'm sounding like a killjoy, let me get on to the stumpwort's dry sense of humour with deadpan comments delivered in such a way that no one quite knows whether you are joking or not. The trick is to say the most outrageous thing and immediately follow it up with something mundane, without cracking a smile. The listener is left wondering, “Did I really hear that?” But we are not as witty as we think we are which is why a teacher once wrote on my school report, “Patricia suffers from a misplaced sense of humour.” My parents laughed out loud at that one, their sense of humour being somewhat misplaced as well.

Then there is the stumpwort's complete refusal to be impressed by anyone, which is why celebrities like to visit or make their homes in Devon. I reckon Angelina Jolie could walk into our local and all that would happen is that someone would look up and say "aye, aye," in greeting and get back to their cider and discussing the farm-gate price of milk.

So I'm proud to be a repressed, self-controlled stumpwort. We may not be the most beautiful things that God ever made but we have our uses 

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Shit, It's Snow!

I EXPECT all my friends who live outside the UK know that we Brits are obsessed by the weather. It's our primary topic of conversation and especially at this time of year. Although snow is not unusual in the winter months it seems to always take us by complete surprise and after few flakes of the white stuff the country grinds to a halt. We're quite pathetic - but at least we can laugh at ourselves!

Take a look at this little video below. It made me laugh!

*If you are offended by bad language, best not to view it!

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Real Men Eat Yogurt

I HAD an email from friend and ex-colleague today. Just like my better half, he's not the most adventurous eater in the world. Here's part of his email:

I've just eaten a yoghurt, voluntarily. I also bought said treat, several days ago. In fact, it was past its sell-by date, but obviously you couldn't possibly tell by taste.

The last time I ate a yoghurt was in October, 2017, at the Arcow Quarry, near Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire. The first, and only other time I've eaten a yoghurt was on Shap Fell, near Penrith, Cumbria, in November, 2013.

That's quiche and yoghurt. I'll be trying pizza or pasta next, NOT.

I'm off to the fridge to get a Mars bar.

PS It was raspberry flavour.

Here's my very helpful reply:

Don’t let the fact that yogurt is essentially gone off milk full of bacteria deter you from trying another in 2019.

Forget about quiche because real men don’t eat it. I think you would like pizza as it’s basically Welsh rarebit with a bit of tomato and few herbs, which you could always scrape off. Pasta is only boiled flour and water – what’s not to like?

Mars bars are full of goodness if you believe the old adverts. And they will help you to work, rest and play if you eat one every day. I’m pretty sure, but don’t quote me on this, that they are even healthier deep fried.

Nutrition Adviser to the Stars

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'Sniff By' Dates

Dr Crippen needn't have bothered with the hyoscine hydrobromide
he used to poison his wife, he could have opened a dodgy
packet of prawns and made her a sandwich.

I AM now, officially, a statistic. The Food Standards Agency reports that one in three of us is gambling with our health by using food past its 'use by' date. I'm afraid I am one of those people, although I am still here to tell the tale.

Obviously, if it smells like a post-mortem, is attempting to crawl out of the fridge on its own or is covered in slime, I give it a wide berth. Other than that, it's fair game.

If you have been religiously checking those 'use-by' dates all your life, don't let me persuade you to do otherwise. I don't want to be personally responsible for a virulent outbreak of food-poisoning. But, speaking personally, I rely on my own judgement rather than a date-stamp.

I'm not a 'use-by' person, more of a 'sniff-by' kind of a girl. If it doesn't smell whiffy, it's edible. 
Now it seems my attitude to those dates could be lining me up for some unmentionable gastric illness as I could well be ingesting salmonella, e.coli and listeria along with that squidgy brie smothered on my cracker.

I have a suggestion for the Food Standards Agency. If they want us all to stick to the 'rules', then don't make them so confusing. For there are use-by dates, sell-by dates and best-before dates. It seems the sell-by dates are meaningless and the best-before dates are created by the manufacturer as a suggestion because they want you to eat their products when they are in tip-top condition.

The only one that has any real value is the use-by date - the one I have been studiously ignoring. And even those are flexible up to a point, for manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution.Up to now I have tended to look on those dates more as a challenge.

Cheddar with a blue covering? Cut it off and eat the rest, is my attitude. A packet of custard powder that orders me to use it by January 7, 2009? I'll make that raspberry trifle when I want to and I may not want to for a few more weeks...or years.

I refuse to believe that a tin of beans that is perfectly safe to eat at 11.59pm, suddenly becomes poisonous a minute later. If it were true, Dr Crippen wouldn't have bothered using hyoscine hydrobromide to poison his wife, he would have opened a dodgy packet of prawns and made her a sandwich. In the interests of historical accuracy, Crippen TRIED to poison his wife but gave her too much hyoscine hydrobromide which caused her to go screamingly mad - so he shot her. Oh well…

According to the Food Standards Agency, we in the UK throw away 7 million tonnes of food every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. Wasting food like this costs the average household £470 a year.

As for all of those dates  generally speaking they are not regulated in the way many people believe. The current system misleads consumers to believe they must discard food because it's dangerous to eat when in fact most of the dates are only suggestions.

For now I'm going to continue with my "sniff" method. I haven't poisoned anybody yet. At least, I don't think I have. Which reminds me, I wonder what happened to my old schoolfriend who popped round for a sandwich in 2016? She hasn't been back since.

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Trump Trumped

Don't make me come over there, Donald.

DONALD Trump has once again engaged mouth before engaging brain, this time calling various African countries, Haiti and El Salvador "shitholes".

I don't want to belittle the gravity of his utterings but you know what he needs, don't you?

My mother.

I can just hear her after reading about this on the news.

"Don't make me come over there, Donald. 

"You're old enough to know better.

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. 

"If I want your opinion, I'll ask for it.

"Oh, and Donald, go to your room and think about what you said!"

He'd better  not react in the wrong way either. "Wipe that smile off your face before I do it for you. And Donald, when you start acting like an adult, I'll start treating you like one. "

I'm going to  bang your two heads together.

She'd soon have sorted out his little spat with North Korea's Kim Jong-un too. 

" I'm going to bang your two heads together. 

"I don't care who started it, I'm finishing it! 

"Why? Because I said so. 

"You'd better start behaving because I'm going to count to three. 

"OK, stop crying you two or I'll give you something to cry about.  

"Now you both say you're sorry and mean it!"


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Making Conversation

Sadly, I'm already there!

I'M not really a party animal but I can shake a tail feather or two should the need arise. I'm not so bothered about making a fool of myself on the dance floor – even if I do look like an arthritic pensioner on speed - as being stuck for conversation with a stranger.

I'm not like the better half who loves talking to people or, more importantly, listening to what they have to say. At the end of any occasion he is full of the stories he has been told and the interesting things he has found out. Just don’t get him started on politics. I’ve seen grown men weep after being cornered and subjected to his forthright views.

I’m not good at small talk and dread a silence descending on a conversation. I cast about for something to chat about as my opposite number throws panic-stricken glances towards the door. Or worse, I start babbling - and eyes glaze over and smiles fix on faces.

As a former newspaper person I tend to fill up the silences by relapsing into interview mode and people can feel like I’m interrogating them rather than chatting. I haven’t yet asked the questions: “Do you mind telling me how old you are?” or “Could you spell your name, please?” but I’m sure they will slip out one day.

Over the years I have tried to soften that approach and I have gathered a mental check-list of things to ask. They are of the "isn’t the weather lovely/dreadful for the time of year, what do you do for a living, where did you grow up, do you have any pets?" variety. I know to steer clear of politics (better half, take note) and religion so I don't ask anyone what they think of a hereditary third chamber or whether transubstantiation is a metaphor or a reality.

But after one recent encounter I considered changing my tactics when it came to the art of conversation. I was approached by a smiling man who said: "I was always told not to speak to strangers but you don't look like a serial killer." It made me laugh and broke the ice and we had a lovely chat about crime channels on TV and then about the beautiful walks in Devon where, hopefully, no serial killers are lurking.

So, I thought, from now on I'm going to ask an ice-breaker question and see where it leads me. The problem would be finding the balance between sounding interesting and humorous or coming across as a complete idiot you would walk naked across Dartmoor in winter to avoid. It's a fine line but I was willing to risk it.

I asked my family for some help in thinking up that icebreaker question and, surprise, surprise, they looked at me as if I were mad (believe me, I'm used to that look) and were less than helpful. One niece said I should start by asking: "If you feed a chicken sausages, will it lay a scotch egg?" I shook my head in despair but she justified it by saying I could then go on to talk about all the people who keep hens in their gardens. Yes, that's if they're still around to talk to and not pretending someone on the other side of the room is waving to them.

Most were total conversation stoppers rather than starters so I won't be asking: "Who do you think is responsible for the blame culture in this country?" Thank you, nephew. And he offered this gem as a way of getting into someone’s good books: "If you were a nose, I would pick you first." And there goes another one making a bolt for freedom.

I read somewhere that words contribute only 10 per cent to a conversation; the rest is made up of tone of voice and body language. So I'm practising not crossing my arms or legs in a defensive pose, relaxing my shoulders, keeping eye contact, nodding while other people talk and using my hands expressively.  I need to talk more slowly and in a slightly deeper voice than normal. All good tips I found on the internet.

This is great, I thought, and at the next family get-together decided to practise on relatives. I approached one likely candidate and clean forgot my "icebreaker" question, but suddenly remembered the one about the chicken and the scotch egg. I blurted out this “hilarious” joke and received a stony stare in return. So I started to babble about hens and gardens - then remembered my internet research and began to talk more slowly and a tone lower. I waved my hands about in what I thought was an expressive manner. I stared her in the eye and unslumped my shoulders so much that they were practically at my knees.

She looked at me unsmilingly for a few seconds as I waited for her response to my scintillating conversation. She finally said: "Are you drunk?" and walked off. That’s the thing about family members, there’s no sugar-coating any pills.

Oh well, the next time I need to talk to someone I will start by commenting on the weather and then ask them what they do for a living. If they tell me how old they are and how they spell their name, so much the better.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Christmas Memories

(Published in Devon Life in December 2017)

Ideal Christmas gift: An Action Man deserter!

IS it that time of year already? It seems like only yesterday I was writing my December column for 2016 and wittering on about Umble Pie, made from the innards of a deer. Umble Pie is now so far from ‘umble that Heston Blumenthal serves it with powdered duck and smoked confit fennel. Powdered duck? Don't ask me…
Yes, Christmas looms on the horizon. I know lots of people love the festive season and everything that goes with it but there are plenty who dread the whole affair. There's the perennial cry of “it's too commercialised" and some think it's just for the children. I'm not surprised children love Christmas when you look at how much money we spend on them. It's shocking that some families get into debt because little Tyrone absolutely has to have the latest games console or else he'll be a social pariah (or a social piranha, as I heard one person pronounce it) at school. Some cost around £500, and that's even before you buy any of the games that go in it.
Oh dear, I'm becoming one of those boring people, always harping back to the good old days when all I got was a new frock and a tangerine in the foot of a (very small) sock.
But looking back at my own Devon Christmases I have only fond memories. Like most kids in the year dot, we had presents only at birthdays and Christmas. There was always one main present and several little ones, including the very un-PC gifts of sweet cigarettes and a chocolate pipe with desiccated coconut "tobacco". There was always an annual of some kind usually the Beano, Rupert Bear or Champion the Wonder Horse.
In my family there were strict gender demarcations which would make any equality rights officer these days shake their head in despair.  The girls had dolls and books while the boys had Meccano and, one glorious year, a small steam engine that powered the wonderful Meccano creations made by my brothers.
As for the main gift, one year I had a walkie-talkie doll called Susan with black hair and bright red lips. I still had her up to a few years ago when she finally gave up the ghost to depart for that great dolls’ hospital in the sky. By then she was minus her lovely black hair which I cut off when playing hairdressers one day. My mother tried to glue on some new hair so she looked like a minor male celebrity with a bad toupee. Susan was made of hard plastic so not exactly cuddly. Her ‘talk’ was a cry when you tilted her and her ‘walk’ a very stiff-legged perambulation from the hip when you pushed her, resembling not so much a little girl strolling as a Nazi goose-stepping.
Then there was the desk with the lift-up lid which, little swat that I was at Chawleigh Primary School, was one of my favourite presents ever, and one year a Timex Cinderella watch in a ‘glass’ (i.e. plastic) slipper.
As soon as we stopped believing in Santa we started assiduously searching for the hidden gifts in the run-up to Christmas. We children performed a fingertip search of the house and farm buildings which would make any forensic scientist proud but we never unearthed as much as box of crayons. It was only later that we discovered that all our presents were safely stored at my Auntie Rita's house in Wembworthy and were collected by my father on Christmas Eve when we were  tucked up in bed.
 Of course we saved up our pennies to buy presents for mum and dad. Dad nearly always got Polo mints because we had horses and they liked them! Mum was the recipient of a range of cheap ornaments which she pretended to love with a passion. They would stay on the sideboard for a few weeks before being quietly stowed away inside. Or if we were cash-strapped we watched Blue Peter avidly in the run-up to Christmas before cobbling together some flimsy pen pot or a Santa made of cardboard and cottonwool with the obligatory "sticky-backed plastic" holding it all together.
They managed never to look anything but delighted and I know it's a cliché, but it really is the thought that counts.
I’m not quite ready for Christmas yet but I will know that the festive season has well and truly begun when the better half delivers his one and only Christmas joke. He claims that one year his parents gave him an empty shoebox - and told him it was an Action Man deserter.
Merry Christmas, everyone.

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