So there we were, walking the dogs one day. OH had Jeffie, and I was walking Sid. OH had ongoing disturbances of the right foot, commonly known in medical circles as plantar fasciitis. Jeffie had ongoing disturbances of the digestive system, commonly known as the squits.

Jeffie squatted and squitted. OH and I both watched as he walked forward without a care in the world. He had made his not-so-little deposit in an area of long grass, but as it was alongside the main footpath through the village we had a legal obligation to pick it up.

OH rustled a poop bag, half-heartedly*.

‘I’ll give you ten bob if you pick that up for me,’ he said.

Me: ‘Do you really mean that?’

OH: Yes, yes!! Ten bob if you pick it up. You know you’ll do a much better job than me, and my foot hurts.’

Me: ‘Ten bob?’

OH (with an air of great sincerity and confidence): ‘Ten bob!’

Me: ‘Ahahahahah! But there is no longer any such thing as ten bob!’

OH: ‘Oh .. please!!!

And so, being basically a very nice, helpful and generous person, I did. I picked it up. And did I get my ten bob? I did not.

A few months later, it happened again. And once again, OH stood and gazed at the offending damp and malodorous Jeffie Waste somewhat disconsolately.

OH: ‘I’ll give you ten bob if you … ‘

Me: ‘Yeah yeah. I’ve heard that before. You still owe me the first one. You do realise that if I pick that up, you’ll owe me TWO ten bobs? And I want the real thing – ten bob notes, just like we used to have. Orange, with Brenda’s head on them and everything?’

OH: ‘Yes! Anything!! Yes! Two ten bob notes. Orange, Brenda’s head, real thing … Yes! PLEASE pick it up for me!!’

And so, being basically a nice, generous soul, and not really expecting ever to see my ten bob notes, I did.

Fast forward to this morning.

There was a ring at the door. Jeffie (now cured of his Digestive Disturbances and putting on weight nicely) ran to do his new, self-appointed job of Guard Dog, and barked ferociously at the door. Sid followed, with a few half-hearted woofs of his own. Finally, OH brought up the rear and answered the door to Sally, our lovely Enid Blyton post lady. She was bearing packages, one of which needed a signature. I always let OH do it, because he has just a tiny little thing going for Sally, and it’s fun to see him answer the door to her in his pyjamas.

He came into the lounge after a few minutes and handed me a cellophane bag. The very one that you see at the top of the post.

Two beautiful, crisp, new ten pound notes!! I was stunned, and very happy to have them.

They are now out of circulation of course, since we have that nasty New Pence currency**. A pity, because bank notes are so much more beautiful than a base metal polygon with peculiarly cryptic designs on it – which is what passes for ten bob these days. And, I might add, I sometimes have to look twice to make sure I’m not being palmed off with foreign currency!

Ten bob was worth a small fortune when I was young. I remember saving my pocket money and Christmas and birthday money for ages to get one. And years later, my very first job paid the grand sum of six pounds and sixpence – a mere tadlet over twelve ten bobs. These days, ten bob would be worth precious little. While it’s true that that first job was pretty low-paid, I did earn a little more than the cost of two packs of sausages, so you see where inflation has got us.

So anyway. OK, they’re not the original orange ones, but they are still genuine ten bob notes! Dating from the late sixties, no less.

I only have one twinge of unease.

These notes are crisp, new, and consecutively numbered, so where the dickens did he get them? Has he got a stash? Do I need to worry about a knock on the door from the fraud squad?



* We’re very egalitarian. The dogs belong to both of us, but whoever is holding the lead picks up the poop. Unless one of us (usually me) is holding both leads, in which case the other person picks up.

** Nasty because a) I was brought up with old currency, so this new decimal stuff seems cheap and somehow not real, and b) don’t you hate all those coins with all those weird designs? Good grief, the stuff doesn’t even smell the same! I want the farthing back. And the thrupenny bit!

Well, the rumours have been circulating for a while, and up until today, I thought it possible that they might not be true, but this morning I saw a press release confirming it; Johnny Depp has split up with his long-time, live-in partner; his ‘girl’, Vanessa Paradis.

Showbiz papers and news sites all over the internet are shouting it from the rooftops, and people are beginning to talk to us die-hard fans and say things like ‘You must be over the moon!’ and ‘Woohoo! Now’s your chance!’

But those of us who actually do care about the man himself and not the glitter than surrounds star status, are not happy. And it’s not about the fact (sadly true though it may be) that we stand no better chance of being admitted to his inner circle than we did when he and Vanessa were joined at the hip. No, it’s about the fact that we simply do not like to see him unhappy.

Thousands of people (including me) have been known to say ‘Oh, I LOVE Johnny Depp!’ and to go to great lengths to see, and exchange a few words with him. Some of us have been extremely lucky and have been hugged and kissed by him. Bless the man, he’s a sweetheart, and very touchy-feely, and has no qualms at all about throwing his arms around a fan, or – as he did once to me – reaching out and grabbing one by the hand to stop her from falling. He has been known to help a child over to his side of the barrier at a red carpet event if it seemed they were in danger of being crushed and then spend time on one knee hugging and comforting her. He is a real, living, breathing fellow human being, not a plastic Hollywood creation. And what I don’t get is that if you love someone, whether they are in your home or living in another stratosphere entirely, why would you be happy when something bad happens to them?

I think it’s useless to hope that it may still prove to be untrue. The media does love to find bad news about stars of stage and screen and the bigger they are, the more they love to see them fall – some worthless gutterpress-employed fragments of humanity have even been known to make up their own sensational ‘news’ if they can’t find any – you know it’s true, it happens all the time. So there have been many, many rumours about the lovely Johnny Depp, including one reporting his death, but there has always, given time, been a rebuttal. This time it seems pretty solid. The statement came from his publicist and has not been denied or proved to be a scam.

My closest Depp friends and I are not happy. We are not swinging from the chandeliers in celebration and dancing on the tables with glee. We mourn the passing of something that made our hero happy.

I don’t have a picture of Vanessa. I’ve never met her or even seen her, so I’ve never had the chance to photograph her, so if you want to see a picture, try Google. Anyway, she was the one Johnny Depp chose and the one Johnny Depp loved. And she was the mother of his two children, now only thirteen and nine years old – what a terrible thing for them!

I have heard that he is not particularly even-tempered, and can be difficult to live with. True or not, the fact is that if you stay with anyone long enough, they’re going to irritate the hell out of you at times and you’ll find yourself snarling at each other. The trick, of course, is to keep talking, stay friends, learn tolerance and compromise and work it out. That must be truly difficult when you spend months living apart on a regular basis, which is why so very many Hollywood marriages fail.

I took the two photos shown here at the premiere of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory back in 2005. I went down to London with a group of wonderful friends and we all had a great time – we saw the Man Himself up close and some of us were lucky enough to exchange a few words and get autographs. But unfortunately, friendships, just like long-term partnerships and marriages, have their ups and downs and are also subject to rifts, misunderstandings, disagreements and splits, and now two or three of those wonderful friends are friends no longer.

It all makes me very sad.

If you want to see a more recent picture (including Vanessa) and read for yourself what the New York Daily News has to say, go here.

Posted on June 11, 2012 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay11 Comments »

There’s only one solution to …

Well, that’s not true, is it? Usually there are lots of solutions to choose from in any given situation, aren’t there? One thing I have learned in my … oooh, let me see now … twenty three years*, is that life is not black and white. We seldom get to choose between only two options. That’s what makes life so difficult, especially for us Librans – and also, as it turns out, for those of you who are Gemini. I guess that rather than weighing things in the scales, you simply argue the toss with yourselves, but anyway …

The solution to my apathetic and weary state wasn’t exactly screaming “HERE I AM – PICK ME!!”, but nevertheless it found me. Actually, I had booked the solution some time ago, before I even became apathetic and weary – a birthday gift of two metal clay jewellery workshops. They happened to be in different locations and only two days apart, and I almost wanted to chicken out, because I was so apathetic and weary that it just seemed Too Much Effort.

But on Wednesday evening, we drove up to Birmingham to spend the night in a hotel, because I didn’t fancy driving up by myself with a sore leg in rush hour, and the next morning, OH dropped me off at the studio, where, along with six other ladies and one man, I learned better ways to shape, cut, fire and finish silver jewellery using PMC.**

The lovely Anwa Essien at the Cookson Gold art clay course was bubbly and fun. She kept us laughing all day putting on different accents, cracking jokes, and making us dance as our pieces came out of her kiln and it would have been a severe challenge for anyone to have remained apathetic and weary in her class.

She encouraged us to design and just try things; if someone’s piece went wrong while it was being made, she helped them to see the possibilities in the new shape. She took every opportunity to show us how to remedy, mend, redesign, and improvise. We learned how to make shapes from multiple pieces, how to make neat holes in our pendants with a wet cocktail stick at the ‘leather’ stage of drying, and how to do a beautiful brushed finish adding highlights with metal burnishers. The fact that we didn’t get our tea until it was nearly time for the course to end didn’t matter at all.

I came home with a pair of nice earrings, a couple of pendants and a few tiny charms, so I was very, very happy. The journey home was made hideous by torrential rain, but we got home safely which was the main thing – that’s the view through the windscreen on route between Coventry and Oundle up there, by the way, and yes, the windscreen wipers were working.

On Saturday (only two days later) I drove down to do another workshop in silver clay, this time at Spoilt Rotten Beads at Haddenham in Cambridgeshire, and had an equally great time. The journey was shorter, so it didn’t involve a hotel stay, and it didn’t rain all the way there and back which was nice! It made the whole venture a lot more pleasant.

Our tutor this time was Vanessa Peck, a lovely lady who exuded calm competence and was very charming and sweet. She showed us how to make pendants using a slightly different method to Anwa’s, but then went on to show us how to make beads of various types. She kept the tea and coffee flowing freely, and while there were fewer jokes and she didn’t make us dance, the atmosphere was just lovely. Relaxed, friendly, and fun! We all talked among ourselves about our families and jobs etc in a way that would have been impossible in Birmingham because of the intensity of the course, but we still got our little pieces of silver jewellery done. Vanessa made sure to get around the table and spend time individually with each of us, helping the less confident but allowing those of us with more experience to do as much as possible for ourselves. She was a great teacher – less ‘hands-on’ than Anwa, but excellent.

Doing these two workshops in a short space of time really did highlight the fact that there is seldom one way to do anything. Both were introductory courses, designed for people with little or no experience. Both gave you a seat in a workshop with a tutor, a piece of silver clay, and access to all the necessary tools and equipment, plus sterling silver findings to finish your jewellery. Both lasted several hours and promised tea or coffee but no lunch – but it was amazing how different the classes were, even though both tutors were equally qualified to teach silver jewellery making using precious metal clay.

Anwa taught us to be adventurous and not to mind if we broke things, Vanessa taught us to take care at each stage. In Birmingham our pieces were fired in a kiln; at Haddenham we learned to use a camping stove and wire mesh to fire our own pieces at home. Anwa showed us how to make our pendant and earring holes with water and a pointy stick, Vanessa thought using water was risky and preferred to use a tiny drill, very carefully so as not to crack the clay. Texture sheets were used differently, stamping out shapes was done differently and using slip was done differently. Anwa made us put a perfect, smooth back on our jewellery, and Vanessa showed a simple method to put a wonderful (and easy) stippled finish on the reverse. Even at the finishing stage things were done differently, with the lovely brushed finish and burnished highlights being taught in Birmingham, and a brilliant mirror shine using graded abrasives and a polishing cloth at Haddenham.

If you’re considering taking silver clay classes, I would recommend doing two different courses in a short space of time if you possibly can – it really isn’t a waste of time, as I feared it might be. There really is a lot of variation in teaching methods and in ways to achieve the same end result: a beautiful piece of wearable art. Not only that, but there’s a lot to be said for having a breather, then going back and consolidating what you’ve learned. Having done these two classes, my range of skills is greatly enlarged and improved.

All of the bits and pieces you see in this post are mine, made at some point during these two workshops. Some need a little more finishing, but that’s the bit that takes the time – and I don’t need to be with a tutor to sit and rub at bits of metal with sanders and polishers, so I can do that at home. Once you know how to do it, it’s just good old-fashioned elbow grease!

* Uh .. no. That’s not actually true. I’m at least thirty-six, possibly more. Well, alright. I’m over fifty, dammit!

** PMC stands for Precious Metal Clay. It’s a wonderful invention consisting of powdered silver in a clay base of binding agents. You cut and shape it a little like clay, and then when it’s fired, the binders burn away leaving you with 99.9% pure silver, which then takes you another couple of hours to make properly shiny, but it’s worth it!

I don’t seem to have any energy at the moment. I think partly it’s because I’ve stopped using the treadmill, and I’ve tried to go back to it, honestly I have, but if it isn’t my acid reflux stopping me – yes, you might not think it, but exercise makes it a lot worse! – then it’s some other stupid problem, or simply not having time, which is THE classic excuse. I know.

The latest ‘stupid problem’ occurred last night when I was out hunting snails. I was standing on the patio picking them off my container-grown pea and bean plants and very kindly giving them one-way flying lessons into the farmer’s field next door, when Jeffie came hurtling in from the garden at his usual ‘No-no-I’m-not-ten-years-old-I’m-a-PUPPY’ speed and slammed straight into the back of my legs. We got tangled and both of us nearly fell over, but in the process, somehow, one of his hard, bony extremities got between my legs and hit one of my varicose veins, rupturing it. Yes, I do. I have varicose veins. It’s a bummer, but there you go – I live with them reasonably happily until something like this happens.

Jeffie disentangled himself quickly and ran indoors and was quickly snoozing in his favourite bed while I tried to find a gel ice pack for my rapidly blackening leg. Eventually one was tracked down right at the back of the freezer by OH, while I attempted to ice my leg with a rigid ice pack (useless) and a pack of frozen peas (pretty good, but wasteful). The gel pack did the trick nicely, turning my leg mottled pink and blue (which sounds pretty) and lumpy (which doesn’t). It was definitely an ‘OK, now I feel like an OLD person’ moment.

Once I was sure my leg had stopped bleeding under the skin, I checked on Jeffie, but he was fine, miraculously. Knowing that dog, it wouldn’t have surprised me to find he’d broken his leg or gashed himself from stem to stern somehow, but no. This time at least we seemed to have got away without an enormous vet’s bill.

Anyway. There you go. No treadmill for me for a week or so while this damned thing heals. No dog walks today, either. So I’ll sit here and get lazier and more apathetic and even more tired.

Oh well. Every cloud has a silver lining, and at least with all the rain we’ve had, I won’t need to go heaving watering cans up and down the garden making sure my veggies get a drink, though whether there will be anything left once I’m mobile enough to go back on snail duty I don’t know. Last night there was even one snail munching its way through a fairly mature bean seedling – and they’d left those alone till now! Why not use a hose? Well, d’uh .. because we’re in the middle of a drought, of course!

Can’t you tell?

And of course, my enforced feet-up time enables me to write my blog and read yours, and paint some more greyhound brooches, and notice the little things in life. The sometimes very amusing little things, like that piece of bread up there which I tore from a slice to give to Jeffie last night because he was begging. He did get a piece, but not that piece. Never let it be said that I feed my dogs on whales – especially not whales swimming in an oil slick!

Dotted throughout this post are various other amusing bits of food which I’ve photographed at various times and then forgotten about. None of them have been Photoshopped, they are just as I saw them. The bread whale is a happy accident, the aubergine grew that way all by itself, the melted cheese formed itself into the fish, the boot, the crowned baby, the bird and the rabbit as it dripped from the toast, and the Bugs Bunny splodge of sauce on the tortilla is just the way it came out of the bottle (it was in a hurry, as usual).

It seems a good time to show them to you. When one is tired and has no energy, one has to find amusement wherever one can, doesn’t one find?

Oh dear. I seem to have been Jubileed. Just call me Brenda.