The Archive 1999/98

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Two days left in the year and I still haven’t figured out what to call the next decade. It used to be easy. If you talked of bad taste in clothes and hairstyles, not to mention a tendency towards repetitious music, it was obvious you meant the 70’s.
Similarly, people who believed that lunch was for wimps and carried a file-fax to give them potency (mostly males who had previously called them phonebooks and only ever dared to buy them for their aunts as birthday gifts), belonged to the 80’s.
Expressions also identify a decade. Groovy baby and far out aren’t even said anymore (not by anyone with a shred of street cred) but even today’s youth know that flower-power hippies used those very phrases while effecting the all-important peace sign throughout the 60’s.
I have a theory about that. Free-love advocates of that time were probably attempting to thwart the authorities with the V sign and were too high to realize they had their hands the wrong way around. 
But what are we to do with 2000? Can the 00’s identify anything significant?  I mean, can you imagine it… Oh yeah, I remember that, it happened in the 00’s…it just doesn’t have the same impact.
Forget the millenium bug, this is far worse. Not only can I not abide the thought of achieving my life’s goals and fulfilling ambitions in a decade without easily recognizable numbers, I don’t want to think of my future grandchildren born with the stigma of being 00’s babies. 
I’d like to wish you all a very healthy and happy New Year. I hope your celebrations are safe and end with an intended bang.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers who wrote to me over the last year and for their suggestions. It’s always a pleasure to get feedback, good or bad.
And for Aunt Winnie Bean in Witchford, this is for you, A very Happy New Year, all year round from your friends and family everywhere. 

Take care and I’ll catch up with you all in 2000.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the dilemma will have been resolved but I still feel inclined to ask- Why all the fuss over electing a Mayor for London?

Why the head hunts? Why are we being treated to endless humiliating demises of candidates once put forward as the greatest things since sliced bread? I don’t get it. We’ve elected Prime Ministers with less scrutiny and investigation into their background.
What is it about this particular position that requires a proclamation from above before he/ she is even considered for the post?
I fear political correctness is to blame. The public seems hell bent on finding the one applicant in existence that is truly pure of mind and deed, past, present and future, probably hoping this will reflect well on society.
And if we’re not careful, we’re going to get just what we’ve asked for. One day there’s bound to be a candidate who fits the bill, a person so perfect and untouched by scandal that he/she practically glows with piety.
But shouldn’t we be more interested in electing someone from this planet, foibles and all, someone with a clue about sins and transgressions? Or must we find out too late that our highly valued and much sought after icon is unable to relate to the mere mortals he represents?

I’m ready! Gifts purchased, wrapped and under the tree. The dinner is in the fridge, awaiting further instruction. And my housework is up to scratch too, if you don’t include the ironing, which has been stashed under the stairway or that I haven’t hoovered since last month or that I persuaded my daughter to finger Yuletide images on the furniture as a way of getting around the dusting.

I’m rather pleased with my achievements. You see, usually we all go out for the festive family meal. It’s always been sort of a tradition, well, more a concessions because I hate to cook as much as my family hates to eat it, but this year I’ve thrown caution to the wind and volunteered to DIY it!
The only snag with the new arrangement is that the guest list is dwindling. We started out with five others joining us including my nana in law. But the numbers fell drastically when it became known I was preparing the feast.
Oh well, it could be a blessing in disguise. At least this way there won’t be too many complaints. The remaining few can be relied upon for loyalty. Nana hasn’t found fault with me since I promised to stop helping her with the shopping – just a little misunderstanding, I didn’t realize she couldn’t actually lift the mega-size containers I buy when I shop. The poor soul couldn’t raise her arm for a week after trying to hump the laundry powder out from under her sink- and the kids wouldn’t dare abandon me in my hour of need, they’re too afraid I’ll write something about them! 

A Merry Christmas to all!

This was sent to me by a reader who thought it deserved to go along side the other men vs women articles I have done.

How Women take a shower:

1.  Take off clothing and place it in laundry basket.
2.  Walk to bathroom wearing dressing gown. If you see your boyfriend/husband along the way, cover up any exposed flesh and rush to the bathroom.
3.  Look at your womanly physique in the mirror and stick out your tummy so that you can complain even more about how you're getting fat.
4.  Get in the shower. Look for facecloth, armcloth, legcloth, long loofah, wide loofah and pumice stone.
5.  Wash your hair once with Cucumber and Lamfrey shampoo with 83 added vitamins.
6.  Wash your hair again with Cucumber and Lamfrey shampoo with 83 added vitamins.
7.  Condition your hair with Cucumber and Lamfrey conditioner enhanced with natural crocus oil.  Leave on hair for fifteen minutes.
8.  Wash your face with crushed apricot facial scrub for ten minutes until red raw.
9.  Wash entire rest of body with Ginger Nut and Jaffa Cake body wash.
10. Rinse conditioner off hair (this takes at least fifteen minutes as you must make sure it has all come off).
11. Shave armpits and legs.
12. Turn off shower and get out.
13. Dry with towel the size of a small African country. Wrap hair in super absorbent second towel.
14. Check entire body for the remotest sign of blemish.
15. Return to bedroom wearing long dressing gown and towel on head.
16. If you see your boyfriend/husband along the way, cover up any exposed skin and then rush to bedroom to spend an hour and a half getting dressed.

How a man showers:

1.  Take off clothes while sitting on the edge of the bed and leave them in a pile.
2.  Walk naked to the bathroom. If you see your girlfriend/wife along the way, flash her making the "woo hoo" sound.
3.  Look at your manly physique in the mirror and suck in your gut. Flex pecs.
4.  Get in the shower.
5.  Don't bother to look for a washcloth, you don't use one.
6.  Wash your face.
7.  Wash your armpits.
8.  Leave body hair on the soap bar.
9.  Shampoo your hair, don't even know what conditioner is.
10. Make a shampoo Mohawk.
11. Rinse off and get out of the shower. Fail to notice water on the floor because you left the curtain hanging out of the tub the whole time.
12. Partial dry off.
13. Look at yourself in the mirror, flex muscles. Admire the condition you're in.
14. Leave wet bath mat on the floor.
15. Leave bathroom light on.
16. Return to the bedroom with towel around your waist. If you pass your girlfriend/wife, open the towel and flash her again.
17. Throw wet towel on the bed. Take 2 minutes to get dressed.

Until this mornings post I had considered myself ahead of the Yuletide game.
As well as having found what I was looking for, I was particularly pleased with my resourcefulness for deciding not to wrap it. Well, with packaging being at least 30% of the cost of a product these days and taking into consideration that cellophane is practically impregnable, I figured why complicate things with more paper?
But before there was time to enjoy my much-deserved self appreciation, a hand delivered brochure informed me that a woman is not only expected to shop, prepare, accommodate and referee throughout the festive season, she should look good while she's doing it!
Look good? For heaven sake, isn't it enough we invite people back into our homes that we don't even like, and in most cases haven't seen since the last time they were passed out on our bathroom floors? Or that we have to endure weeks of condescending advertisement, deeming us bad parents if we don't spend a fortune on the latest computerized toy? Two weeks ago I received a circular through the door for one of these contraptions and thought it was an offer on the house!
The alluring images and fancy type let me know that there was still time to take years off my wrinkled face and inches off my less than firm body before the parties begin.
I was tempted to scream abuse at the suggestion but had one more resourceful inspiration…. I unfolded the brochure and smoothed out the creases. After removing the staples, I cut along the edges being careful not to include any lettering.
Another chore and expense saved. No need to buy gift tags.

There are two words being bandied about that should strike fear and dread into the heart of any female over the age of thirty.
They are video and phone. Not only does new technology allow a caller to see you while you chat, they will be able to see into your home too. I'll bet this creates a demand for fake background boards.
It's bad enough that I run around like a demented lunatic whenever someone knocks on the door and I happen to be in the TV watching position. Packets of crisps scatter and newspapers get hurled like Polaris missiles as I try to avoid the unexpected intruder. I don't think I'll have the energy to live if I have to perform the task every time the phone rings as well.

I can't even turn to my husband for support because he's in his own techno-hell. The DVD revelation couldn't have come at a worse time. He'd only just managed to operate the VCR without activating the garage door opener.

Christmas is a busy time for all and no more so than for those giving presentation displays...

For instance, last week I happened upon a man slicing and dicing vegetables outside a store who performed with such daring speed and dexterity that it stopped me in my tracks?
Quite an achievement since I care less about decorating food than I do cooking it.
The crowd continued to grow while this marvel of all things bladed wielded his fascinating gadget. Ok, I admit it, most of us were just waiting for the smug git to sever a finger, but even the most indifferent of us was impressed with the end results. Turning a radish into the cutest little rosebud was indeed a feat worth praise. And what he did with the cucumbers and tomatoes was a work of art.
The entertainment didn't end there. Two shops further down I was invited to watch a woman demonstrate a new multi-purpose scarf.
She manipulated the wrap into a thousand different fashions, barley using two fingers at a time. First, it was a frilly collar. The next thing I knew, it was draped over her head and around her neck, creating an elegant hood. Before I could say Bob's your uncle, the magic material looked like a blouse! Yet again, I was mesmerized by the floor show.
I'm not ashamed to confess, I was hooked. For all of two minutes I actually believed I could perform to the high standards of those before me. But then a little voice in the back of my head reminded me that these people were experts with years of experience, no matter how effortless they made it look. I wonder if there is a scarf school?
My vegetables wouldn't even come close to resembling delicate garden flowers. More likely, I'd end up serving chipped bits of carrot with peculiar shaped peppers, not to mention the odd fingernail and scraping of knuckle. I'd be forced to lie to my guests that splinter salad is all the rage.
As for the mystical scarf…attempting to execute even the easiest of styles would probably result in me garroting myself. That, or I'd be lucky not to get caught up in an inescapable knot.
Still, sometimes these thingamajigs do serve a purpose, even if it isn't their intended one. They can make great gifts for difficult family members you never know what to give.
Last year, instead of the customary talcum powder and bath soaps for my great aunt, I bought her a nifty two speed, multi-attachment cookie and bun maker, complete with non stick spatulas.
Haven't seen the old bat since!

There has been a major breakthrough for unattractive couples...

A simple click of a computer mouse can now practically eliminate the possibility of them giving birth to an ugly offspring. With the touch of a button, and thousands of pounds, a loving twosome can ensure the arrival of a perfect, albeit procured, Beauty. Ahhh, bless, sounds blissful, doesn't it?

Until you realize that the husband actually has to confess to his Mrs. that he thinks she's too ugly to bear his children and that he's found a more attractive candidate while surfing the net. Kinda puts a bit of a damper on the warm fuzzy moment, don't you think.

The ugly baby problem was solved when a few charitable super models were persuaded to donate their pretty-eggs. For a price a person can solicit the genes of one of these beauties and introduce it to their own in the hopes of creating the perfect looking child.

Not that I want to dash anyone's hopes, but my parents used the same recipe to create five children and ended up with a blond, two brunettes and two redheads. If this proves anything, it's that a child's features are determined by the gene pool lottery. Trying to determine what a woman's descendants will look like by her appearence is pointless.

The launching of such an odd service wouldn't have been so alarming had it not coincided with a Las Vegas wedding special on television where four English couples eloped to the desert for quickie ceremonies. And quickie they were, too. One pair of romantic fools actually got hitched in a drive through!

What is society coming to when people spend more time choosing a video for the night than they do committing to their life partner? As for mating via cyber space, anyone daft enough to put faith and money into such nonsense deserves to find out the hard way that their chosen ovum babe has had more plastic surgery than Cher and originally looked worse than the wife!

Wouldn't it be a whole lot easier to export our beef if the government wasn't still banning certain cuts, i.e. beef on the bone, at home?

Why should the French accept what we are being protected from? There are folk here who still won't touch a roast simply because it isn't clear just how safe or unsafe the product is.

The media hyped frenzy about unfair trade and insults to our hygiene standards is two faced.

We may not like the arrogance of our live stock being rejected. But I dare anyone to admit that they would eat an imported product that was outlawed in its own country for health reasons!


I used to pride myself on being able to operate just about any electrical appliance. Whereas my husband gives up if there's more than an on/off button.

But now even operating a basic wireless leaves me baffled. No longer are there simple knobs to push or twiddle. Today's stereo contraption comes with a multi-layered, multi-lingual instruction booklet that takes me longer to read and comprehend than it takes for most people to finish a graduate course. Honestly, I spent less time raising the children than trying to figure out how to receive Radio 2. And even then I only achieved my goal because I threw the booklet in a fit of temper and it inadvertently came into contact with the correct key. And that's another thing, not even the terminology is the same. There are no buttons or knobs. It's keys and controls !

And all this fuss about joining the European Union is a waste of time. We can't even purchase a toaster oven in this country without having to read in a foreign language just to figure out the browning settings. The closest I ever came to speaking in a foreign tongue was when the air was filled with what sounded like Hindu after I realized, halfway down the page, that the words Electrolux, Super and Toaster are the same in English or Swahili. I thought I was losing my mind until it became clear I was reading the wrong language.

Either it's my age or progress isn't all it's cracked up to be but give me the good old days anytime when a person could turn a knob or push a button to get the required performance from their machine. At this rate, soon, operating even the simplest of gadgets will require nothing short of a pilots license.

I saw my first Christmas commercial last weekend and I already dread the inevitable onslaught to come.

It's only a matter of time before some bright sparks informs us that there's only a few thousand shopping hours to go before Christmas day. As if waiting until December 26th to get that forgotten something is a fate worse than death.

I should have known it was just around the corner by the increase in advertisement. It's always a give away when a toy is promoted during an adult program.

Late the other night I was watching a horror movie (through my fingers, mostly) and an advert for a doll came on. Even worse, during Home and Away a celebrity, well past their sell-by-date, cheerfully advised the viewers to buy health insurance. Who over the age of ten watches that program?

Nothing makes me long for summer more than the commercial Christmas season.

If a politician wants a reality check on their effectiveness, they should ask a young child to describe what they do.

Not that I am a politician, but I am always curious as to just how our young view hierarchy. So I asked a ten year old what would be the best thing about being Tony Blair. His answer was poignant as well as entertaining.

The child thought for less than a second before answering: "He gets to choose how much things cost and when he doesn't want to pay, he asks one of his men to do it."

Ahhh youth. How unaffected by the smoke screen they are. If the latest onslaught of party political formats have been anything, they have been about trying to get the public to pay for something the government won't. Or, better still, tolerate paying for something the government said we wouldn't have to.

These campaign previews are supposed to whet out appetites. They are supposed to refresh our interests in a dependable leader. And yet, they don't even convince our nurslings of their honorable intent.

Still, Tony Blair shouldn't lose too much sleep over the lack of a good impression he has left on tomorrow's voters. The same youth responded just as candidly when asked what job he wanted when he grew up...."I want to play football until I am reeeeally old. And then I want to be a fireman."

I kept my awe at his desire to achieve two worthy careers in one lifetime to myself, knowing that reeeeally old in child years means the doddery age of 20!

Is anyone else annoyed at the mounting costs of watching TV ?
Aside from the initial purchase of a set, there's the annual license fee of over one hundred pounds. Add to that the increasingly popular cable or satellite expense each month (plus the essential equipment that requires), the necessary video paraphernalia and a person could find themselves spending more on the telly each week than they do the entire household.

It wouldn't be so bad if there were decent programs to watch. But the round-the-clock, fly-on-the-wall documentaries on every channel aren't worth the time it takes to switch the tube on, let alone the expense of it.

Who says spying on someone while they shoplift is interesting ? And what possible advantage is there in observing a couple airing their marital problems ? Are we to believe the witless pair couldn't resolve the issue without the distraction of cameras and crew ? Don't even get me started on game shows !

The only telly worth watching is the news. At least that's free - mostly depressing and dreary - but free!

A night-club in Ely is a good idea. And even though a few sceptics have raised some very valid points, I believe with the right amount of respect and consideration the venue could achieve its objective.

The reluctance to the plan is that most proprietors of city centre businesses already have to cope with their premises being vandalised over the weekend. And in a few cases the damage is recurring. This fuels the fear that a night-club would provide an even greater probability of incidences.

But would it?

Giving our teenagers somewhere safe to go, and a place equipped to cope with their energy levels, could eliminate the nuisance all together.

I don't excuse acts of brainless destruction. No one has the right to damage another person's property just because they have nothing better to do. But after dancing and socialising into the wee small hours of the morning a person would be lucky to have enough energy it takes to hail a cab. Reckless misbehaviour would require the strength of Superman.

The parties involved in supplying Ely with its very first night-club have a lot resting on their shoulders. The burden they face should the worst happen and acts of vandalism increase due to their enterprise is weighty. And I'm sure they haven't disregarded the gamble their taking either. Which means that it's in their best interest to make certain their patrons behave themselves.

But ask yourself this, Who's looking after that responsibility now?


There was a modest but very commendable letter in last weeks Ely Standard...
A reader felt the need to ask: Where was the memorial for the other 7,000 deaths resulting from road traffic accidents in the last two years? He went on to stress that most of these fatalities were despite the use of seatbelts and without the distraction of alcohol. And that the losses were largely unproclaimed by the media.

Of course the letter refers to the Princess of Wales memorial garden recently opened in Cambridge. And the point, I presume, was that suffering the death of a loved one isn't reserved for the famous.

All around us we see roadside tributes of flowers, cards and toys adorning the spot where a soul met their untimely end. It's almost a common sight. But it affirms the readers view that having a place to reflect on a person's loss is a comfort, regardless of their celebrity status.

The recent, sad deaths on the roads in our area of both young and old make the readers comments more poignant. His sensitivity and respect for communal loss is admirable.

Anne's View - by Anne deBondt

This was sent to me by a reader. I thought it was funny enough to share.


"I'm going fishing."
Really means.. ."I'm going to drink myself dangerously stupid, and stand by a stream with a stick in my hand, while the fish swim by in complete safety."

"It's a guy thing."
Really means...."There is no rational thought pattern connected with it, and you have no chance at all of making it logical."

"Can I help with dinner?"
Really means...."Why isn't it already on the table?"

"Uh huh," "Sure, honey," or "Yes, dear."
Really means....Absolutely nothing. It's a conditioned response.

"It would take too long to explain."
Really means..."I have no idea how it works.

"We're going to be late."
Really means...."Now I have a legitimate excuse to drive like a maniac."

"I was listening to you. It's just that I have things on my mind."
Really means..."I was wondering if that red-head over there is wearing a bra."

"Take a break, honey, you're working too hard."
Really means...."I can't hear the game over the vacuum cleaner."

"That's interesting, dear."
Really means...."Are you still talking?"

" It's a really good movie."
Really means...."It's got guns, knives, fast cars, and beautiful women."

"That's women's work."
Really means...."It's difficult, dirty, and thankless."

"You know how bad my memory is."
Really means...."I remember the theme song to 'The Professionals', the address of the first girl I ever kissed and the Vehicle Identification Numbers of every car I've ever owned, but I forgot your birthday."

"I was just thinking about you, and got you these roses."
Really means.... "The girl selling them on the corner was a real babe."

"Oh, don't fuss. I just cut myself, it's no big deal."
Really means.... "I have actually severed a limb, but will bleed to death before I admit I'm hurt."

"Hey, I've got my reasons for what I'm doing."
Really means.... "And I sure hope I think of some pretty soon."

"I can't find it."
Really means.... "It didn't fall into my outstretched hands, so I'm completely clueless."

"What did I do this time?"
Really means.... "What did you catch me at?"

"I heard you."
Really means...."I haven't the foggiest clue what you just said, and am hoping desperately that I can fake it well enough so that you don't spend the next 3 days yelling at me."

"You know I could never love anyone else."
Really means.... "I am used to the way you yell at me, and realize it could be worse."

"You look terrific."
Really means.... "Oh, God, please don't try on one more outfit. I'm starving."

"I'm not lost. I know exactly where we are."
Really means.... "No one will ever see us alive again."

"We share the housework." Really means.... "I make the messes, she cleans them up."

Sent Anonymously to Anne Debondt.

You can't see this but I'm swallowing large mouthfuls of humble pie as I write this week's article. And you'll have to overlook my lack of journalistic professionalism as I am too busy swigging from the bottle of disapproval to be witty.....

Yeah right!

I stepped on a few toes last week, charitable toes, at that. And I am truly sorry for the slur I seemed to have heaped on the reputable foundation occupying a shop on the High street in Ely.

I would like to clear up a few misconceptions, though: I did check my facts. I genuinely suffered the risk of getting cement stuck to my shoes. And I do know what I'm talking about. I really had to stand in the pouring rain while I waited to scramble over the obstruction. The threat of losing an eye from an umbrella wielding brute was real enough to me. And I dispute the suggestion that a successful foundation such as the Cancer Research Campaign would be forced to close down permanently because of an unsafe floor. They would do what any other enterprise does faced with such a problem...relocate! Now, where was I? Oh yeah, I was supposed to be apologising. Ok, I'm sorry.

I guess this means I won't be allowed to volunteer my services for the opening of the modern public toilets proposed for the new shopping mall on the market square. I had dreams of cutting the ribbon at a lavish ceremony (I do hope there will be one). But I guess my lack of benevolence means I am no longer worthy of the honour. Any chance Mr. Addair can forgive me since I provided him with another opportunity to advertise the Cancer Research Foundation? I'll bring my own scissors!

I had a chance to visit one of the dis-used RAF bases in Suffolk recently. A bigger waste of land and facilities I have never seen. An uncountable amount of large structures, small shops and outbuildings have just been allowed to deteriorate while a decision is made about the future of the site. I knew the area well. I'm fully aware of it's potential. There is enough room for a village and yet, the place sits unproductive and destitute. Why doesn't the government step in and utilise these abandoned gold mines for a good cause? Surely there are hundreds of establishments on their books begging for such consideration. Why waste such prime locations? With that much acreage up for grabs, children's foundations, adult learning groups, animal welfare centres and even annoying undesirables could be facilitated without the risk of clashing. The latest communities to spring up in our area can't boast those qualities.

Ok, it's official. I'm old.

You'd think being able to remember long ago events while not capable of recalling breakfast would have been my first clue. Or that I now shun trendy shops because fashion is no longer as important to me as comfort. Actually, I stopped frequenting these places long ago. I couldn't stand the loud music. I got tired of having to use sign language just to get the teeny-bopper on duty to understand what I was looking for. Has anyone ever tried to sign 'Do you have stretch-top trousers?' If it hadn't been for two other shoppers intervening to get the attention of little miss help, I would have resorted to violence. Perhaps slapping irritating people is another symptom of old age...

But alas, it took blanket marks on my face still visible hours after getting out of bed to finally force me to admit that I am no spring chicken.  In my youth the dreaded pleats across my cheeks, caused by laying in one position for too long, used to disappear within an hour of my stirring. (See, I told you I could remember things from long ago). But when a friend questioned the red streaks I was sporting well after midday, I conceded that the fight against puffy eyes and sagging skin had begun in earnest.

Still, I suppose it's not all bad tidings. A very nice young lady actually held the door for me the other day. A show of respect, I presume. That, or she was amused by my one size fits all semi-denim slacks and wanted another look.  

I try not to subject myself to unnecessary stress...
I avoid rush hour traffic and shun busy times at the supermarkets. If I should need to contact an office I make sure I place the call at precisely 9:00 am so that the amount of time I am put on hold and forced to listen to the latest chart hit performed on a cello is limited.  I'm rarely successful with the last ploy. It seems there is an office policy: no matter that the person requested is sitting at their desk, ready to work, the caller must be put on hold and forced to listen to the Guns and Roses' rock anthem by Andrew Lloyd Webber's orchestra.

Anyway, as I was saying, I try to make my life as simple and anxiety free as possible. But despite my efforts some events are just beyond my control. It was bad enough that the heavens opened up on me just as I began to do a bit of shopping in Ely. And being constantly clobbered by pedestrians carrying umbrellas the size of awnings didn't improve my demeanour either. But as I approached my destination my stress-o-meter began to rise. A large cement mixer was causing a commotion just outside Tindalls shop. Cement was being poured from its bowels into the charity shop next door. Driving rain, massive umbrellas threatening to take my eye out and now this. I practically had to climb up onto the mixer to get in the doorway. Don't get me wrong, the workmen were most helpful. One even stood on the plastic sheeting so that I could dash across and enter the safe haven of paper clips, notebooks and folders without getting mortar all over my shoes. But it's not been ten minutes since that shop had its last re-fit.

If I'm that inconvenienced by the clamour, dirt and obstruction, whatever must the people working in the adjacent shops be going through ? And forgive me but isn't the purpose of these charity shops to offer voluntary goods and services for the benefit of the needy?

I fail to see how constantly renovating the floors and fixtures relieves the suffering.

Aren't the new Skynet wristwatches soon to be used by the police ingenious? Can there be anything more effective in controlling crime than being able to spot the culprit, wherever they are, night or day? Of course, I'm pretty sure the use of such surveillance equipment violates our human rights. But it's nothing NASA hasn't been suspected of doing for years. Satellites blasted into orbit, supposedly to probe deeper into the stratosphere, are probably pointed toward earth, not upwards. I guess when in doubt, don't look up!

I whine about this matter often enough to make a person yawn but two snippets of news last week brought me to boiling point again and I just can't resist another grumble.

One item announced that a certain number of children from Kosovo seeking refuge in this country are to be allowed to stay indefinitely and receive education at our expense. The charity worker being interviewed quite proudly and without the slightest hint of gall announced that all would be done to ease these underprivileged children into society, giving them the best we could offer.

Two days later I read that the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial fund has granted the first of their major handouts amounting to £ 3 million. And the beneficiaries were children and victims in other countries. Our youths are in desperate need of such attention. And for the very same reasons. It seems grossly unfair that they merit nothing more than platitudes from our government in place of charitable sympathy.

Perhaps a foreign celebrity or personality from some far away country should devise a foundation to look after our poor and maltreated. Maybe the shame of having the welfare of British adolescents taken care of by strangers who care more for them than our own government would inspire an all too overdue awareness.

I would like to say a belated, albeit sincere, happy 19th birthday to Allison. As well as being a most skilled attendant at the Minster Pub in Ely she is a student, a political apprentice and an all-round nice lass. Although, she does have a worrying obsession for ketchup. In recognition of such glowing qualities, I intend to keep my promise and never fill in a customer complaints form in her presence!

Gone are the days when the purpose of a tattoo is merely to honour mum. Today's artwork scarred into a person's skin is far more elaborate and quite a bit more expensive too, I should imagine. I have nothing against the idea of body art. Although I'm pretty sure there isn't a human being alive strong enough to hold me down while ink is injected into my skin, thousands of times until a recognisable image appears. I stood behind a young girl in a queue recently and had the pleasure of examining her multi-coloured, somewhat bewildering design stained into her shoulders. I guess it had some significance. I presume she is proud of the decoration.  But what I am sure of is that she will be grateful for her wisdom in putting the tattoo out of her sight. When the symbolic shapes and colours begin to droop and sag with age, she will be spared having to look at it.

The word luxury is applied to consumer products a little too often for my liking...
Not to mention the annoying new and improved label. From kitchen towels to cat food the tiresome incentive is blazoned across packaging, hoping to entice us to purchase the item. What was it before the enhancement, second rate, dysfunctional ? But just recently I saw a product advertised in this way that took the prize for absurdity. Amongst a plethora of stationary, pens, paper clips and folders I saw the description luxury item on a packet of ten white ordinary looking envelopes. The cost of this improved product was a full £1.25 more than the others on offer.  What, was the paper made from rare trees? Do they address themselves? For that much of an increase, I'd want the sticky stuff on the flap to be chocolate the very least !

I fully agree with the comments made by Labour Counsellors Graham Steward and Dil Owen concerning the lack of facilities for the young people of our community. The cancelling of the Cutter Pub entertainment licence may have made the surrounding residents happy, I have no doubt. But the action didn't solve the problem. The offending youths will just resort to cheap thrills and loud cavorting in open areas. Not go away peaceably because their fun has been curtailed. I do not condone abusive behaviour or disorderly conduct, either in public or at home, at any age. But surely, with hindsight, it would have been wiser to establish where the discos and live music were to be relocated to before eliminating the attraction. It's our duty not an extravagance to supply the young with an outlet. If they are made to fend for themselves with no guidance or contribution from the authorities, can we be surprised that they act out in anger and resentment ? Refusing them space because their idea of recreation doesn't coincide with the neighbours denies them the freedom to be young. And life's already too short.

So, there is to be a gazebo on Ely market square to commemorate the millennium. Isn't that nice. Forgive me if I seem a tad unenthused with the announcement, but wouldn't the money have been better spent improving the public toilets ?  The advancement of Ely is impressive. The multitude of choice in shopping and eating out is now enjoyable. But the ball is dropped by the lack of decent public conveniences. If the council want Ely to commemorate the year 2000 with distinction, it should get rid of the medieval underground toilet tombs within reach of the city centre. No amount of tarting up the square will compensate for the inadequacy of such vital comforts.

I often complain. In fact, I could complain for England, should there ever be such a tournament. But just recently an incident gave me reason to be appreciative, instead. One Saturday, not long ago, I attempted to mow the lawn. After several failed efforts to get the mower started, I finally admitted defeat.

But being the stubborn type, I still insisted on performing the task despite the setback and persuaded my husband to purchase another machine from a shop in Ely.  My expectations were high. While I awaited his return, I envisioned what a new mower would be capable of. I imagined it would be so advanced compared to our former ancient (practically horse drawn) contraption that it would virtually cut the grass by itself.

In no time at all my other half returned with a shiny yellow model almost ready for use. According to the instruction booklet, all it needed was a few screws and bolts in place and off I go. Not quite. The four screws two nut-clips and a yellow pulley thingy, supposedly enclosed , were missing. While I frantically searched for the items a very nice gentleman approached and asked if he could assist. I explained my dilemma and he hurried home to get a few screws and bolts he thought might fit. Poor man, he had only set out for the morning paper. I thanked him for his generosity and began again to assemble the machine. To cut a long story short, the nice man's accessories didn't fit either. I then pestered my husband until he agreed to return to the shop to collect the missing items. On his return I clipped, screwed, fastened and tightened and....Ready !.....

Not quite. Now the machine wouldn't start. No matter how I cursed, pulled, yanked and fumed, it refused to co-operate. By now the father of my children was threatening to divorce me if I so much as mentioned him making another trip. So I phoned the shop and pleaded for assistance.

The very helpful man at Brands of Ely assured me he would be right out and replace the machine with another one if he couldn't get it going. And he did. After five hours, three lawnmowers and several blasphemous eruptions, I finally mowed my lawn.

I would like to thank the neighbour who interrupted his Saturday morning to help me with my predicament. And although it took awhile to get the garden seen to, I would also like to thank the man from Brands for being so accommodating. As for my husband, he's recovered. Although, I think it's best if I wait awhile before telling him the Hoover's packed up.

Perhaps I'll phone Brands myself, just to be safe.

Lately, I have been inundated with offers to sell, rent, re-mortgage or have the value of my humble home appraised, all at no cost to me. And with no obligation.

It always baffles me when I receive one of these pamphlets through the post because surely if I was interested in selling I would have contacted the estate agents, not the other way around. I mean, it's not as if I would forget to put the house on the market the same as I would forget to pick up a loaf of bread.

Let's see, what else was I supposed to do....? Collect the dry cleaning, buy milk, drop off the mower for repair...and what else...? Oh yes, sell the house! Or, even better, to up-sticks and move only because a flattering colourful brochure popped through the door and convinced me to sell just because good houses in my area are in urgent need. I personally love that one. Isn't it insulting to be told that some estate agent somewhere knows of a buyer who would be far better suited for your home and your neighbourhood than you?

And further more, if I had even the slightest inkling that my dwelling was suddenly worth thousands more than I originally paid, as is stated in some of the notices, I would already have been down to the nearest office, instructing them to flog the asset. And then spend the proceeds on a life of luxury in the Bahamas. Well, okay, maybe just a good day shopping at the shopping malls.

Perhaps estate agents presume the home owning public to be idiots. And that we don't realise if house prices have risen in our area, they have more than likely risen where we would be relocating to as well ? Thus, offsetting any financial gain. And, indeed, negating the reason for moving in the first place ! Not to mention the nightmare of unpacking. I still can't find the bed linen. And we moved five years ago.

I'm tempted to accept all the offers. I'd like to arrange for an interview with each of the unsolicited agencies. I'd give up a week of my time to have some poor unsuspecting soul come ready to dazzle me with clipboard, tape measure and banter. Only to admit half way through the meeting that I'm not interested in selling and never was, that I just wanted to insult their intelligence as they do mine. The pretence may be time consuming, but I bet by the third interview I wouldn't be sent any more offers. Hell, I'll bet after two, I'll be put on an agency black-list.  Now that would be worth it !

There would be no question in closing down an animal sanctuary if it was exposed for abuse and neglect of the animals in its care.
And a pet centre assigning a known mishandler of dogs as a caretaker for abandoned puppies would be boycotted by the public until the establishment was shamed out of existence. The wrath that would follow if it was proven the handler carried out mistreatment on the helpless pups while they were under his supervision is unthinkable. Yet, too many unfortunate foster children or orphans suffer far worse and for far longer at the hands of their caretakers. Supposedly, the very people trained to make their lives better. When the atrocities have been confirmed, and the depraved acts revealed to have taken place under the nose of the authorities, some big-wig public servant appears from nowhere announcing that a report has been filed and the allegations will be seriously investigated. As if the paper shuffling, buck- passing twaddle should be a comfort to the degraded children. Why are the courts of this land so stalwart when it comes to protecting animals and yet practically voiceless about the unacceptable handling of our future generations? Animal mistreatment has resulted in the owner or manager being forbidden to possess animals for life. But a paedofile can be, and has been, replaced amidst a neighbourhood of children and asked to be allowed to go about their business since they have completed their obligation of confinement. Just once I would like to see a politician of any measure or rank have the guts to confront this ugly stain on our society and do something effective about it. Tony Blair jabbering on about the lack of human rights in Kosovo is far less meaningful when his government turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to the human rights crisis right here in our very own back yard.

Ok, I confess, I don't like the Spice Girls.
In fact, if I hear another word about one of them marrying, having a baby, piercing a body part, getting matching buttocks tattoos or representing England in some third world country, I'm going to scream. They are never out of sight. I'm convinced the scientists lied and that sheep weren't the first species to be cloned. Untalented, over made-up Barbie Dolls were the original attempt at genetically duplicating life forms. I live for the day when there is something more of interest to the tabloid papers or the news programs than these scantily clad strumpets achieving another milestone in life. But with my luck, these paragons of anti-talent won't disappear, they'll just pause long enough for their children Brat, Pampered, Spoilt and Screaming Spice to clamber onto the stage. Arghhhh !

If you're reading this then Nostradamus was wrong, the world as we know it didn't come to an end on the 4th of July.

But it was interesting to think that it might. Instead of worrying about how such a tragedy might take place, I thought about what I would like to do before I go. Funnily enough, not one of my departing activities involved hurting a waitress or causing mayhem at a grocery store. Though, I did consider going back to a certain establishment and telling them what I really thought of their services. My calm was surprising. And, according to the family, frightening. I phoned my relations in America and caught up on the news from home. I made a point of being nice to the kids and even took the dog for a walk. In itself, dog walking isn't such a great act. But animals and I don't mix. I bleached the goldfish bowl, concerned that the water had turned a nasty green, and caused two fish to die of chlorine inhalation because I returned them to the water before the bleach had fully evaporated. I contemplated lying to the kids and telling that the fish were just swimming very slow but then noticed that one was actually vertical, at the bottom of the tank. Not even my offspring are that gullible. And I lost the hamster when I decided its cage was too unorganised. It seems, you can't tell a hamster to 'stay'. And they most definitely don't appreciate domestic advice. Our one remaining family pet panics whenever he's left alone with me, practically has to be sedated. But getting back to my good deeds- I smiled at an elderly lady as I strolled and assisted a lost soul asking for directions. I even found time to return a few well over-due library books. The only problem is that, come July 5th, if humans have continued to inhabit the earth, It's going to be hard to keep up the act. And the poor dog would probably have a seizure if I started to be nice to it on a regular basis. I think he still hasn't gotten over me hoovering up his shedding coat, while it was still on him.

If the government is so worried about the adverse affects our garbage is having on the environment, why doesn't Tony Blair pass an ordinance that forces manufacturers of all discardable wrappings and containers to use biodegradable materials only. Most merchandise is over packaged anyway. But such an order would be cheaper than trying to establish and enforce a nation-wide recycling scheme. It also solves the problem of our rubbish outlasting creation.

When was the last day of your youth ?

And for the few who can remember that fateful moment, what did you spend it doing? In my experience, the passing from dependant to dependable was such an ill-defined flash that it's impossible to recall when I stopped playing with toys and began paying for them.

I ask such an odd question because the lines are becoming blurred between adults hell bent on re-visiting their youth and today's youth hell-bent on establishing one. Both with identical and inappropriate behaviour or dress. For example, a young girl piercing her nose and then connecting the hole to one in her ear with a chain is a sign of modern rebellion, albeit a bizarre one. Yet a woman of my years deliberately puncturing anything on her body smacks of desperation. I mean, really, at least the young adolescent bud knows nothing of the tortures to come. When most of us full blossomed flowers have suffered childbirth, there's no need to inflict further pain on ourselves.

Similarly, a grown man strutting his stuff on a stage, blaring about the injustices and wrongs he's endured (at ear-splitting decibels) while his teenage children attend the finest schools in England with the proceeds from his performances, is laughable. Did anyone else read the reviews of the latest Rolling Stones concert? Instead of partying and powdering before the gigs I bet Mick Jagger and the boys took naps. Honestly, I have newer antiques.

It isn't necessary to mimic today's young to be reminded of a youth gone by. A sure-fire way to recall my salad days is to cast my mind back to the seventies...Ziggy Stardust, Punk Rock, platform shoes (serious platforms too, not the wimpy imitations of today) and Disco... Maybe puncturing a hole here and there isn't so bizarre after all.

Some motorists instantly slow down when a police car is spotted anywhere near them. And some treat the approaching enforcer as a challenge and continue to contest the speed limit with nerves of steel. I recently had the pleasure of witnessing the latter become so impatient with the slow-down that he overtook the patrolman. A brave soul, indeed. Two seconds after the auto-warrior executed his manoeuvre he was invited to join the officer at the side of the road. A sight most enjoyable to us law-abiding cowards. But even fearless motorist travelling at the speed of light will reduce their rate when a recovery truck trundles by with a mangled wreck that used to be a BMW roped to its flatbed. Such a vision reminds even the toughest of us that we're mortal. Forget speed cameras, (most drivers do) the mobile warning has a much greater impact.

Summer time means many things to many people. To some, it signals the onset of allergy irritations. To others, it can be the beginning of time with the family. Or the excitement of a welcome break somewhere sunnier and hotter.  For our household the first signs of summer start with what my kith and kin refer to as the orange swipe. This is not a bird characteristic of our area. Nor is it a mysterious creature that only comes out of hiding in time for the warm weather. It is the mark I leave on just about every surface in the house when I forget to wash my hands after applying my self-tanning lotion.

You'd think the ridicule from the previous year would be a reminder. One particularly embarrassing incident still makes me cringe. I had yet again forgotten to wash thoroughly after applying the lotion and inadvertently wiped my lip and brow....yeah, you guessed it, an orange mustach and eyebrows for a week. I tried to scrub away the telling evidence but only managed to turn the orange to crimson with the scouring. I even considered using bleach. But I quickly deduced that orange eyebrows are better than none.

You see, the problem is that the lotion starts out a creamy white. If it came out of the bottle the colour it turns into I'm certain my dwelling wouldn't resemble a mad artists workroom. No one believes me that, because the lotion takes time to achieve its imitation golden brown, I am as startled as everyone else when we meander downstairs the following day to find our kitchen, front room and hallway (door handles included) looking as if Picaso has run amok while we slept. I'm even more stunned at the amount of things I touch in a day. Still, my family are used to my absentmindedness. They only know it's wintertime when I appear with singed sleeves. Unfortunately, I'm generally the one to light the first fire with the onset of cold weather. And as hard as I try, I never remember to remove the wadded blanket we stuff up the chimney to stop the birds from coming down the flue before I strike the match. My first indication is always the plumes of smoke billowing towards me. I'm then forced to reach through the flaming coals I've just ignited to retrieve the damn thing.  You don't want to know what alerts us that Easter is on its way!

What does it say about me that I was actually giddy with excitement when I read that a shopping mall has been proposed for my area, practically on my doorstep?

Worrying, isn't it. I'd like to say that my delight was due to the estimated 600 jobs that could be created. Or that because the area is in desperate need of a boost since our opinions were soundly ignored and the straw burning plant went ahead (and is currently under construction). But no, nothing so noble. I'm ecstatic because a shopping mall, and a discount one at that, will give me an opportunity to do what I like best- spend hours looking at things I don't need or, in fact, don't have room for. Kind of like the tractor auction for men on the same site.

But my husband's outlook was even better. At least a shopping mall so close to our home solves a dilemma for him. I'll have somewhere to scatter his ashes when he pops his clogs. That way, he says, he's certain I'll visit him at least twice a week. You know, he's got a point...

There used to be a simple procedure for dealing with contaminants in our fresh food products, such as fruits and vegetables. It was advised that we remove all soil by scrubbing before peeling and cooking. This guaranteed that any harmful pesticides or creatures lurking in the dirt were washed away. And meat was even easier. Eat as soon as possible after purchase and keep refrigerated or frozen in between. But now the domestic cook practically has to have a Bachelor Degree in consumables or a certificate from the Food Advisory Board just to feed the family. It's impossible to know from one day to the next whether we're ingesting harmful cancer causing dioxins or potentially fatal BSE infected meats. Not to mention, the nonsense over the government induced GM nightmare.  

If the scientists can't, or won't, decide what's good or bad for us, how on earth are we supposed to? Pretty soon we'll be forgoing the popular roast dinners and Bar-B-Q's altogether. And replacing them with a family gathered around the pill bottle, ready to take the synthetic alternative to food. A tablet containing all the essential vitamins and minerals required because the authorities just couldn't get the real thing right !

It's frightening to think that the man responsible for the cartoon "The Jetsons" actually predicted such an eventuality.

No offensive gestures, staring or leering...
No pin-ups, pet names, unwanted physical attention, or smoochy noises made when women walk by. This is the proposed new equal opportunities policy for our council offices.

In future a greater respect is to be given to employees regardless of their sex, creed or nationality. And more care will be taken to ensure staff are treated fairly and squarely within the working environment.

Sounds good to me. But employees of such a moral high ground will have to take care not to enter the local garage where a pouting little vixen, whose sole purpose in life is to bare her ample bosom just to illustrate what month it is. Or walk pass workmen who feel the need to celebrate a woman's wiggle with much hooping and hollering. Even I was whistled at just recently ...please, some men will hubba-hubba at  anything !

It would be less than naive to pretend a change in policy within the workplace can safeguard us against a world full of nonconformers. But it's a good place to start. The next target on the list of uncivilised conduct outcasts should be the top shelves of most newsagents and page three of a few tabloids.

What is it about a sale that makes us buy things we didn't want in the first place ? I stood behind two women the other day and listened in disbelief as each one justified  buying an outfit two sizes too small and not the right colour. Yet, here they were, in a queue, waiting to purchase the ill fitting, unsuitably shaded garments, all because they were on sale. In my experience, less money won't make the zipper zip any easier or turn a disgusting puce into a pretty pink. But somehow it being a bargain makes us believe a miracle will take place once we're at home and in front of our own mirrors.  

A friend of mine often makes fun of people who can be seen dragging some god awful contraption to the till, thrilled to be taking advantage of a megga-discount, and quips, "That's gonna look nice in the loft." His words have a sad but true ring to them. Being hoodwinked into buying items we don't want because we are incapable of passing up a good deal is either a stroke of genius on the part of the shop owners or proof that mankind is to be pitied. Mind you, I still say that once the children stop tripping over the life-size statue of  Elvis that I just had to have, well, it was seventy-five percent off, they're going to appreciate its importance.

Why is it so difficult to get a full cup of coffee in a cafe ?

Being the mild mannered person that I am, I have let a few occasions pass where I was served less than a spillage when I should have complained. However, the other day I was forced to make my displeasure known.

The waitress brought me a jug of milk, two types of sugar and little more than a stain at the bottom of a cup. And then had the nerve to ask if there was anything else she could get me as she deposited the bill on the table. "Yes" , I replied in dismay, "the rest of my coffee." From the look on her face you would have thought I had attacked her dress sense with my request. Had I not been preoccupied with where the rest of my order had gone, I would have. I mean, for goodness sake, there was more additives than coffee. Is it European ? Is it de rigueur ? Or are all waitresses nearsighted ? Whatever the explanation, I have vowed that the next time the cutie in the pinny serves me half a cup, I'm only paying half the tab.  

I have come to the conclusion that I am without talent. That I have no aptitude for performing, skilfully or artistically. The sad realisation dawned on me while I was in conversation with a woman of similar age who is attempting another depth level in scuba-diving. She has already achieved other certificates in the sport of deliberately sinking and, I guess, will continue to do so until she reaches the bottom of the ocean.  I'm not jealous. It's just that she's already shown the same overabundance of genius in the fields of writing, painting and business. And it's unfair that some folk can be blessed with boundless capabilities and others are born with nothing more than an ability to stand upright.

Still, all is not lost. I'm confident that I will have my day. If eating, shopping and TV watching ever become Olympic sports, I'm gonna shine. I might even find myself with a few plaques on the wall. Maybe even a trophy or two. Heck, I could achieve gold if a growing waistline and a penchant for anything chocolate becomes competitive. I've spent virtually my entire adult life training for that particular event.

Most people can survive an entire day without causing trouble. I, on the other hand, don't seem capable of spending five minutes in the open air without creating mayhem.

Just a few examples: A perfectly innocent comment from me, that a particular pair of leggings made a woman's behind look like marbles shoved into a pair of tights, caused a fracas....well, she asked ! On another occasion I harmlessly inquired when my friend's maid was due, she'd already been...get my point ?

I don't intend to insult, I don't mean to cause offence. Yet, I do. For some reason these things set off from somewhere deep down inside me without my being able to stop them. Still, despite my ability to sin and err without the least amount of effort, I managed to restore my path to heaven. It seems my inadvertent remark when asked by a local priest if he would be seeing me in church the following week was a tad careless and took a bit more than the usual amount of forgiveness. Many acts of contrition later, I now understand that I should have thought before I it Christmas already?

Why do all the bad things from America catch on? Why doesn't anything nice ever cross the water and make an impact over here? I mean, what about copying their ability to bar-b-q ? Or their expertise when it comes to building shopping malls. But alas, I fear those wonderful qualities will elude us. Instead, lawsuit mania has made the journey. Where once people settled their differences with cordiality and self-respect, there is now a growing trend toward court action. It seems that a victim only feels pacified for their suffering when vast amounts of cash have been paid to assuage the damage.  To those who say 'Why not' or 'So it should be', I say, has anyone considered where the money to appease the demon deed has come from ? In most cases when the council is sued, it's the public's money used to pay the fine. In a situation where an insurance firm has to fork over bundles of dough to kiss a boo-boo, all paying members of the company suffer, premiumly. I'm not saying all lawsuits are unnecessary. Far from it. But if we're not careful, we'll soon be seeing the ludicrous goings on here that we are treated to in America. Like the boy suing his mother because she married a less than perfect husband. Thus, providing the poor soul with a less than perfect father....oh god help us then.

I should have known that I risked a McDonald's on my doorstep by continuing to voice my aversions to the fast-food invasion.

My outspoken opposition practically guaranteed that the firm would track me down and erect one of their restaurants within bun-flinging distance of my abode as a punishment.

The Ely and Newmarket areas are said to be of particular interest to the food chain because Burger King have already graced each region with their own brand of the quasi-burger and McDonald's feels its quasi-offerings are as good as anything BK can serve up.

However, as I have said many a time, they can force me to cross their paths (and it's getting more and more difficult to avoid doing so) but getting me to partake of their wares will take an act of god. Still, they're in the right place for that to happen. Don't you just know that the inevitable opening of the Ely site will be celebrated with a cathedral burger and divine fries topped off with a miraculous milkshake?  

Car parks seem to be a growing source of anxiety. Either they are too small or too inconvenient. Some are strongly opposed to and others are desperately needed, but denied. And hasn't Ely seen its fare share of such difficulties?  Yet surprisingly, modern parking facilities have never been more accommodating. Shopping centres now provide reserved spaces for parent and child, physical impairments, staff, taxis and even trolleys. You would think that all categories had been catered to.

Not quite. There is an increasing group who will soon need to be included in the ranks. You know, BMW drivers who are forced to park so far away from the entrance that they need a map and a compass to find it. Or Jaguar enthusiasts who use up three spaces by parking sideways, unconcerned that it will take a crane and the talents of Houdini to extract their car once other drivers have parked correctly alongside him. And my favourite, the fastidious Range Rover owner who protectively shields his cherished vehicle from nasty trolleys or damaging plastic bags while he waits for the wife to return with her goods. Yet, the same man deliberately subjects the same vehicle to rugged off-road terrain and swampy mires as a pass-time. It's only fair that these people should have their space too. Preferably double wide space so that their cars and egos have room for manoeuvring without the risk of either one becoming dented.

It wasn't until overhearing a phone conversation between two men that I realised just how profound the chasm is between the male and female characters.

I've had suspicions but never realised that a separation the size of a valley divided our natures.

My eavesdropping wasn't intentional, I hadn't meant to become absorbed in the discussion, but hearing the sympathetic phrases; 'Sorry to hear that mate.' and 'What are you going to do now ?' and particularly, 'Really, and you didn't even know it was going to happen?', caused me to listen more intently. In a matter of seconds my maternal instincts leapt into action as I became more and more convinced that someone somewhere was suffering. While the men commiserated I mentally located the first-aid box, just in case my limited medical talents should be needed, and refreshed my memory with the basic steps to grievance counselling, preparing myself for the worst.

I then waited patiently for the call to end (practically washing the pattern off a plate and risking a bad case of dishpan hands so that I could remain at the sink, within earshot) to enquire about the tragedy that had befallen some poor soul. Finding out that the crisis began and ended with nothing more than the discontinuation of a favourite sporting magazine and not the calamity I had envisioned left me bewildered. It took a moment for it to sink in that, instead of bloodshed and carnage, my services had been put on stand-by for two grown men sad at the loss of their beloved caveman handbook ! As I said, I'd had suspicions that the sexes differed in areas other than anatomy before this, but the eyewitness account confirmed them.

A conversation between two women, peppered with such language and pacification, would have been reserved for a much greater cause. And a good example was a chat I had recently. I needed a shoulder to cry on so I sought a dear friend and amid sobs of anguish and worry I related the latest episode of Emmerdale. Now there's a tragedy. Neither of us can understand how Kathy could do such a thing to sweet, innocent Biff...

I'm going to be cynical this week...
and make a suggestion that, although may irritate a few readers, is one I feel needs to be made. A Kosovar war refugee approached a driver on his way to work and appealed for help. As the story goes, the driver offered the starving immigrant his own boxed lunch and a cup of tea and then promptly drove to the nearest police station with his acquired passenger. All's well with this particular occasion . My scepticism comes from the fear that an idea might have been planted in the head of a less than scrupulous character by the favourable outcome. Car jacking is already on the increase and human nature being what it is, drivers could be at risk of finding themselves approached by what seems to be a desperate foreigner, speaking incoherent English, begging for aid. In the event of recent weeks a person could be forgiven for wanting to be the next good Samaritan. And I admire such compassion. But once the driver allows the seemingly frantic person into the car they may find themselves in real danger when the ruse is exposed and the refugee turns out to be a low life with ulterior motives. A similar ploy could be used on your door-step. You answer your door and are asked for assistance. What you think is a person in dire straights transforms into a far more sinister individual. Not until the door shuts do you discover the difference. I would love to think that I am just too cynical for my own good. And that not a chance in hell of something such as I have warned about could ever happen. However, I stand by my caution . I apologise if I have discouraged a charitable heart. But I would far rather that than to read about the assault of one.

I would like to thank two shop assistants in New Look, Ely for their vigilance. The girls noticed a man standing by the changing rooms with seemingly no purpose. After studying him for a moment one asked politely if she could be of any help and not until securing that he was the father of a young girl trying on an outfit, did the salesgirl return to her station. The man was my humble husband and the lass in the cubicle was my daughter. Far from being insulted by the insinuation, my family and I couldn't have been more grateful for the thoughtfulness and awareness these girls demonstrated.  Thanks again !

According to the RSPCA, far from being a country of animal lovers, we are fast becoming a nation of animal abusers. The number of complaints in our region alone almost trebled by comparison with the previous year's total. Some credit for the increase in cases brought to light is due to the vigilance of the RSPCA inspectors. They no longer wait for the public to expose cruelty, they now go looking for it. But that's a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted. Wouldn't it be far more cost effective to obligate a potential animal owner to undergo stringent tests and screening to ensure that they are prepared for the burden of a pet ? Even more so if the desired animal is of the exotic or large variety ? Similar to the restrictions placed on anyone wanting to drive a car, float a boat, fly a plane, fish in the sea or watch the television !

Isn't it insane that the two most consequential decisions a human makes, having a child and acquiring an animal, require the least amount of confirmation that the applicant is qualified ?

Staying with the theme of new-borns... I read where a group of Cambridge mothers have united in an attempt to curb the use of disposable nappies. And to highlight the impact that these non-biodegradable items have on our environment, they deposited 35 bin bags full of soiled diapers on the doorstep of The Guildhall as part of their  poignant protest.

Their main concern is the amount of waste the nappies create. Evidently, a staggering 10,000 tonnes are dumped in landfill sites throughout the country each year. And to compound the situation, the materials used won't breakdown in composition. Some parts of the nappy will remain on earth for eternity. The campaign is called Real Nappy Week and the objective is to acquaint mothers with the advantages of modern reusables. Far from this being just another impassioned plea by environmentalists overreacting to the destruction we humans seem hell-bent on inflicting on the earth, this is an impressive show of self-denial. And I don't know if I would have the courage to join them if I still had to perform the task, but I admire their convictions. A tired, overworked mother giving up the luxury of disposable diapers is a sacrifice equivalent to dad being asked to abandon his four wheel drive, multi-blade grass thrasher and mow the lawn with a pair of scissors instead.

My opinion won't come as a surprise to anyone.

I'll even dare to say that it borders on arrogance, but I was pleased to see another major book shop come to the area. And as much as I agree that the loss of the nostalgic Eaden Lilley's is unfortunate, I also know that with such a prime site on the market, Cambridge risked acquiring something far more displeasing than books !

Writers are a funny lot. We sit for hours huddled over the keyboard with nothing more to show for our efforts than a few measly lines of brilliance (I told you my opinion was arrogant) but the rewards more than make up for it. To actually affect someone with the written word makes all our toil and suffering worth while. How many people can remember reading their first novel ? Compared to how many of today's youths will recall their first video or computer game with the same respect. More importantly, a character in a story can transform the soul. I doubt that the "Blade Runner II-Mega Bash" evokes the same worthwhile effect. It's only my opinion, but as long as book stores outnumber game stores, tomorrow's youths stand a chance.

We have a milk rustler (or rustlers) in our neck of the woods. It seems that some varmint is trying to put the loyal milkman out of business in Ely by swiping his door step deliveries before a cowpoke can get his boots on. Even the local sheriff can't catch the no good, low down creature. Well, I have a warning for em' much fun as this little caper're sure to be caught...and just think how impressed your fellow jailbirds are gonna be when you have to admit what you're in for. Black-eyed Bart : I'm in for GBH, sentenced to two years. Pokerfaced Pete : I got nabbed during a bank robbery, banged up for five years Milkshake Mack : I was caught pilfering bottles of milk from little old ladies, serving a lifetime of humiliation beyond belief.

I don't fancy your chances of surviving the poky either !

I have never understood...
the theory behind expelling a student from school for bad behaviour. Children being sent home to play with their computers, video games, bikes or other entertainment paraphernalia as a punishment is equivalent to sentencing a drunk driver to a few days in a pub.

Surly if the violation deserves action the pupil should be made to perform a task after their classes, such as cleaning the school grounds or assisting with an educational function, not rewarded with a few days holiday. I've never known a kid yet to cringe and quake when given the week off to "think" about their transgression. I do know one, however, who still can't look at a bucket without being reminded of the time they were made to collect rocks all during their lunch hour for throwing a lump of ice at a playmate and unfortunately getting the timing wrong and hitting the principal instead...

Thank god (and rocket science) that someone has finally succeeded in circumnavigating the globe in a hot air balloon. Not that I think the achievement merits applaud. No I'm elated because we ( the non-narcissistic public ) will now be spared scores of grown men trying to rationalise the need to complete such a senseless feat. That is, until some smart apple gets the idea that sailing around the world on a bread board is appealing, not to mention very manly.

Yet another anti-McDonald's campaign has sprung up in Cambridge. And despite the many protests from the users of the Racehorse Pub on Newmarket road, earmarked for this latest conversion, I fear the end result may be disappointing for them.  But even if the fast food firm wasn't successful in erecting their golden arches at this site, they would just go elsewhere, equally unsuitable.  As the saying goes, you can't stop progress. Though, you can refuse to eat there.

The public can be whipped into a charitable frenzy by red nose fever...
or jump on the bandwagon of some needy foreign campaign when youngsters, in particular sick youngsters, are the beneficiaries. Yet it seems we are capable of ignoring our own local children who, although may not be ill, are in great need of generosity. Amongst all the hype and chaos of the latest fund raising event I came across a friendly man shaking a bucket, asking for donations on behalf of Newmarket children and their activities. I was so pleased to see a local charity where the money would be spent on improvements for people in my neighbourhood that I gladly dropped what I had into his container.

I am fully aware that a percentage of the collections from these nation-wide crusades stays local. And that our government supports charities designed to benefit children in this country. But that's not enough.  Why don't showbiz personalities gather for a telethon once a year to persuade us to donate strictly for our own children ? I'm as sympathetic as the next person. But unfortunately I don't need to travel to a third world country to witness need and depravity. And I make an effort to donate my change to a cause that betters the lives of children who are our future, possibly our coming leaders or notables, given the right start.

The Che Guevara/Jesus posters intending to provoke discussion and debates for the church of England have succeeded in their mission.

Even my family in Arizona have heard of the poster campaign. As I am no longer a church goer it seems somewhat hollow for me to have an opinion. But I was raised as a Catholic and know all too well what change can do to a household that relies heavily on the traditional philosophies of a religion. I can still recall the time I saw a priest sneeze during his sermon. I thought the man would burn in hell for sure. I also remember that my late grandmother flatly refused to attend a mass where the youth group played their guitars as part of the communion proceeding instead of the traditional organ music. This was a relief for me as the lady often disciplined my fidgeting with a painful pinch under the arm. Needless to say, I supported her cause. But what these insignificant occurrences prove is that religion can be many things to many people. And that Orthodoxy doesn't ensure a path to heaven. The invitation may change but it leads to the same purpose. Posters or guitars, sneezing or chanting, enthusiasm for God needs to reach the people of tomorrow.

Ahhh... youth. Long, sunny fun filled days, sleep overs, junior soccer matches and disrespecting someone's mother !

It brought nostalgic tears to my eyes when I read that Ely Community College and Kings School have entered into a contest of trading insults. And despite the social divides, that slagging off ones mother was still the ultimate "dis". I imagine that even though the provocation is now transmitted via cyber technology, it's every bit as effective as when we used to shout similar abuse across the school yard.

Anyone who complains about the political incorrectness of this harmless exercise has forgotten how unquestionably gratifying it is to reduce your rival to a lump of humiliated mush without so much as raising a hand, simply by suggesting that their mamma's so ugly, she had to tie a bone around her neck to get the dog to play with her ! Ahhh...youth...

The public were asked to participate in a poll concerning the case against Jeff and Jenny Bramley who stand accused of disappearing with their foster children. The proceedings have already received tremendous exposure. And, no doubt, will continue to do so considering that public opinion is overwhelmingly on their side with 93.3 percent of voters in favour of them facing no criminal charges. A mere 6.6 percent felt they should face some sort of fine. But are we qualified to interfere ? Who are we to decide what's best for a family that very few of us, if any, have ever met ?  Public opinion is a wonderful tool when it comes to consumer rights and fair play concerning our own well being. But it's dangerous to pretend that our idyllic notions are sufficient grounds to dictate the outcome of something as sensitive as the placement of young children.

My convictions matter to me. But I don't delude myself that they should matter to anyone else. Misguided sentimentality or not, I wouldn't want it on my head that I condemned two young girls to a life I won't be living and won't even have the interest in two weeks after the event. The decision should be made by trained professionals, prepared to answer for the consequences if a mistake is made.  

According to the front pages of almost every major newspaper Bill and Hillary Clinton are having marital troubles . The first lady not only refuses to sleep in the same bed as her husband, she now won't even stay in the same room with him.  In her infinite wisdom, you'd think she would realise that perhaps that's his problem...If she'd stay in the room, half the female population of Washington wouldn't have to run from it !

Our beloved Ely railway bridge was hit for the 106th time a few weeks ago.

The Spanish lorry (truck) driver's excuse was that he couldn't read the many English warning signs surrounding the structure, resulting in the collision that ensued . Now, as humorous as his justification was, I say humorous because his vehicle exceeded the height of the bridge by at least three feet, habla English or Espanol, can the man not see ? Anyway, his misfortune produced a brainstorm of an idea. I thought, What if the reason for Ely bridge being the second most bashed span in England is due to drivers, foreign or otherwise, not taking the time to read the scripted cautions and notices ? I was going to be clever and whimsical and suggest that instead of spending so much money on replacing the often destroyed fluorescent signs (that have been about as effective as a paper needle ) why not erect a modern, multi-lingual warning. A large and flashing circle with a line through a drawing of a truck in two pieces and a bridge in thousands !!!

I was this because on my way up the stairs to put my genius idea onto the computer, I tripped, dropped the tray of food and drink I was carrying and bumped my head on the banister hard enough to dent my skull. Ok, maybe not a dent, but I felt something give. It must have been the instant concussion because after reassembling my items and hobbling to my desk I stupidly opened the coke, spraying the keyboard, surrounding wall and myself with the fizzy explosion, forgetting that coke-cola becomes rocket fuel once it has been shaken.

You would think the excitement ended there. Not quite. When the shower ceased I noticed a river of coke headed off the desk and onto where I needed to sit so I irrationally pushed my chair out of the way to stop any further damage. Only to gouge a hole in the wallpaper when the chair shot backwards like a torpedo. My crash landing on the stairway combined with the racket I was making in the office prompted my husband to yell up (rather unsympathetically, I might add) "What the hell are you doing up there, renovating the room ?" I mean really, he could have at least faked concern ! Anyway, after convincing him that the room and I were still in once piece, just, I surveyed the devastation and came to a more compassionate conclusion ...Perhaps some of us were born to collide with disaster, no matter how many of life's warning signs we encounter, regardless of their witty design ! This article is dedicated to my sister Cathy. She is the reason so many of my catastrophes get into print. If it weren't for the utter enjoyment she gets from reading about them or the fact that she entertains me with her own mishaps, I would probably lie about who my articles featured.

Incidentally, I followed in her footsteps through our adolescence and watched carefully whenever she did anything. Because there is only eleven months between us I didn't have to wait long before her obstacles became mine. And I'm sure she won't mind me revealing that she was clumsy first...there's a permanent imprint of her left eyebrow on an office wall to prove it !

I see that my favourite structure, the millennium dome, is in crisis !

It looks as if the near seven hundred million pounds already spent on its creation isn't going to be enough. Motivating a debate on either allocating more funding or possibly scrapping the project all together. I guess that since the administrators of this farce have managed to ignore how much good spending that amount on the NHS waiting lists would have done, or, the fact that had such a sum been injected into our school system, we would be guaranteed intelligent, professional adults to carry us into the future, possibly beyond the "educational" quality of the dome itself, It's fair to assume that more money will be wasted on its completion. I just wonder how many of the decision makers have children to educate or hips that need replacing !

There is a line to a song that sticks in my head that goes..

If you tolerate this your children will be next...

It is sung by the popular Manic Street Preachers. I suppose the message refers to life in general. Another equally catchy lyric that stays with me is, - Everything will be fine if we just give it time.- The intent to this little ditty is more obvious. "It" being genetically modified foods and the band, The Labour Government. They are trying to mollify us that there is no risk in eating modified products regardless that no satisfactory trials have been carried out to secure such a confidence. And in spite of test results that prove the contrary. Nor has this band of performers called for strict legislature that ensures adequate labelling of goods that contain G. M. components so that we may decide for ourselves. And as if all that wasn't worrying enough, these mutated foods are purchasable now and on the shelves of most shops.

Yet, the same government found it necessary to continue the beef on the bone ban as a safe guard against a one in a billion chance of ill health caused by CJD. And more contradictory still, profits greatly from taxation on the sale of deadly cigarettes. Instead of a well rehearsed song and dance routine, wouldn't it be more civic of Tony Blair to give a clear answer as to why we need phantom food in the first place when there is enough natural products and livestock produced in this country to sustain us and then some ?

No doubt his answer will be just as melodic as his earlier explanation. To be fair, there's not many straightforward ways to say that our health and the ingredients we digest relies entirely on big cash investors and not the soundness of the product.  I'll bet my glow-in-the-dark sausage that he makes a song and dance around the fact that the government backed institute responsible for this latest food formula is funded by the world's leading producer of genetically modified crops.

There's that tune again....If we tolerate this, our children will be next....

It's bad enough...
that you can't turn on the television without being confronted with images of either unrealistic sexual activity or an in depth conversation about your bedroom habits, regardless of how relevant love-making is to the theme of the program. But now, as well almost every national newspaper, even the most innocuous of woman's magazines contains at least one sex quiz, slipped in betwixt pages of knitting patterns, exotic cookery methods and twenty ways to make furniture out of household garbage, that promises to uncover the seductive person you keep hidden.

And although it isn't compulsory to respond to the probing questions , an ego is a fragile thing. Before you know it, you're ticking boxes and selecting a, b or c from multiple choice, determined to find the sexuality that you didn't even know was missing until happening upon the article. The last time I succumbed to one of these ridiculous exams I rated an embarrassing three out of twenty. Which, according to the chart calculations, revealed that my romantic aspirations are not just buried, they're subterranean !  It took me polishing off the rest of the Christmas chocolates to recover from finding out that I have less sex appeal than Norman Wisdom. However, my triumph aside, to some, these questionnaires can be dangerous. I suspect that the need for the self-assessment is a sign that today's woman is afraid of being condemned to mediocrity. And that she's willing to believe the humiliating outcome of these exams to escape such a tag.

I'm equally guilty. I should have known before giving in to my curiosity that a journalist sitting in her office, presumably miles away, couldn't possibly determine my sexuality with a bunch of questions that were thrown together to fill space. I'm fully aware that it took my husband the better part of twenty years, three children and many battles with my growing waistline before he came to that conclusion !

Aren't mobile phones a wonderful thing ? Of course, that is unless you're teaching a class when one goes off, a passenger on a train next to one ringing incessantly, the person standing behind a user in a queue, the unfortunate soul beside an inconsiderate oaf in a restaurant talking loud enough to register on the Richter scale and last but certainly not least, unless your television programme is interrupted by an unfamiliar conversation about the price of fish at the local market that keeps buzzing in to replace the dialogue.  Perhaps wonderful isn't the right word...

Are the tabloid reading masses fickle ?

In some cases when a notable personality says or does something foolish their reckless conduct causes such a storm that the culprit's head on a platter is the only way of making amends for the transgression. And yet, in another instance, the indiscreet babbling of some prominent fool can be practically ignored regardless of the ill timed effect or indeed the damaging consequences it creates.

Will Carling leaving his girlfriend and mother of his young child for another woman put him in the media hot seat not so long ago. Public opinion reached fever pitch when reporters dug into his private life and exposed his lack of chivalry when carrying out the break-up. As well as being condemned to eternal rathood for his behaviour the fracas continued until he suffered serious commercial set backs. And only abated when the man's personal and financial life lay in ruins.

And just recently Glen Hoddle got the boot as a result of his thoughtless comments concerning handicapped people. The media asked for, nay demanded, the public be outraged by the Hoddle twaddle and continued to protest until the football coach lost his cushy (and considerably over paid, but that's another article) job.  

I, and everyone I have spoken to, no more cares about Mr. Hoddle's beliefs in reincarnation than Delia Smith's passion for Norwich football scarves. And whether or not Mr. Carling is ever faithful to anyone, is of even less concern.  So why the reputed public outcry over their blunders ? In a word, circulation. If the tabloids understand anything, it's the mathematics of manufacturing a drama. Example: downfall of a celebrity + hyped up resentment = bulging sales.  But what proves beyond all doubt that public offence depends on the intensity of media sensationalism, is the lack of controversy over the disgraceful comment made by Mr. Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools. He stated that pupils having sex with teachers can be educational. Yet, due to some unknown reason, his lapse in competence received less publicity than Cliff Richard's latest single.

Just to add insult to injury, the remark received a pardon from David Blunkett, our educational minister because Mr. Woodhead spluttered an apology.  Fickle? Maybe not. Perhaps mislead ! What our newspapers should be full of is that it's less than acceptable for our education authority to conduct themselves like football hooligans. Not that our sportsmen behave like, well, sportsmen. If ever someones head deserved to be on a platter, it's Woodhead's !

I am in the process of learning a second language.

Not the typical French, Spanish or German as you would expect. But one, I fear, will become far more indispensable. It is millennium-ese. And my incentive... After standing in a queue for over twenty minutes without moving , I dared to enquire what the hold-up was. The person in front of me kindly passed on my query to the next individual, and they in turn to the next, and so on. The explanation sent back via the human data link was "The millennium up-dating has crashed and isn't back on line yet. But we're working on it." Not one of us understood what that was supposed to mean. One woman actually said out loud what I know we were all thinking.... Huh? Yet, we retracted our complaint and resolved to wait. The reason for our reticence ? Ignorance !  For all we knew, the check-out girl could have run out of ink. But because we couldn't speak the twenty first century neo-lingo, we didn't dare challenge the reply . And, if I do say so myself, this undertaking is quite brave of me as I still haven't master ye olde English.

For example, just recently I was asked by a family friend if I liked to ramble. The poor enquirer only just managed to explain, moments before I returned the abuse, suspecting that my husband had been complaining about me again , that "rambling" is the customary word for, taking a long walk on open land not gabbing incessantly, as I had mistakenly presumed. Learning the millennium language will be hard enough, mastering it may take me a while.

I have had numerous responses to my article on outlandish prize offers. And as a result, more junk mail enticements have been brought to my attention.  My favourite being the prize draw entry that promised a holiday if the recipient could answer the question: Who is Elizabeth Taylor married to, correctly and their entry chosen at random. Surely the answer depends on what week the contest is run. But one circular that intrigued me most was the offer of an expensive make-over that included a photo shoot after the event.  The advertisement gushed that the woman deserved the luxury of a day spent being pampered and fussed . The end result being a brand new, unrecognisable you ! My question would be: Why would a person pay to have a photograph of a stranger ? Wouldn't it be cheaper to clip out a recent paparazzi snap of say, Raquel Welch, frame that, and then lie to everyone that you actually spent one day of your life looking that good ?

As gifts my three sisters and I were given Barbie dolls from a well meaning relative that I can no longer remember the name of. But what I do remember is that my mother instantly refused to allow us to add even one Ken doll to the collection.  This was intolerable. In my youth you just weren't cool unless you had a date for Babs ! I mean, the doll had everything that plastic could be moulded into. We felt we owed it to her to purchase an admiring toy-man to round off the collection.
But regardless of our appeals or the fact that we out numbered her four to one, mum held fast to her convictions. Not even the old guilt trip, "Every other girl in the neighbourhood has a date for their Barbie!", caused her to relent. I guess we eventually gave up the fight and either went on to play with other things or replaced the hole in Barbies life with charity work. That detail escapes my memory too.
But 30 years on I have to admit, I can now see why my mother banished Ken from the household. Barbie is a strumpet ! And the 1999 version is every bit as insulting to womankind as the previous representations must have been. It's alter ego now sports a large belly tattoo and a floral design branded on her chest. And for those of us who might be sentimental, Butterfly Barbie, as she is called, will still be endowed with the same unrealistic figure (must be where the idea for implants came from ) and still have the same outrageously long blonde hair. Don't even get me started on the size of her waist ! And like my mother before me, I suspect that the designers of this doll are men. Who else would pretend that such distorted attributes pay homage to the modern day girl ?

My husband and I attended a very poignant Thanksgiving Service in honour of his friend,  Mr. Claude Starling, who had passed away recently. As it is impossible to fully describe all the good this man has done for the farming community and all fellowships he was associated with, we are content to sincerely express how very much he will be missed and to extend our genuine sympathy to his family.  It is a sad but true consequence that we are now left with too few men who possess the calibre of generosity and kindness equal to Mr. Claude Starling.

Oddly enough, I can spend an entire morning in absolute solitude without a single disruption.

I can even devote my undivided attention to a book for the afternoon without so much as a whisper of interference.  Yet, with the flick of my Hoover switch I become more popular than the internet. Should I even attempt to vacuum, people seem to emerge from nowhere, desperate to communicate. And despite the Hoover making as much noise as a low flying aircraft the courageous intruder proceeds to talk. Stranger still, I attempt to answer. When it finally becomes clear that neither of us is being understood, even though the neighbours could probably answer the question due to the volume of our screaming, I switch off the machine only to be informed that, as in the last incident, my son can't find the milk !  I don't know what it is about these noisy contraptions that inspires a person to ask questions that could easily wait. But I do know that my response is never as helpful as it would have been had I been bothered while I was reading a book or dusting the furniture. In fact, the reply to my son's query was most decidedly unhelpful and according to the look on his face, offensively rude.

He isn't the only one to go away licking a wound for disturbing me though. Somewhere in the neighbourhood there's a less than happy sales person who knocked on my door with an exciting bargain for me to take advantage of and who probably still hasn't recovered from the earbashing she got for her efforts.  Quite innocently my husband requested a sporting catalogue by way of a fax-back service. But due to some technical difficulties he was told that he would have to be called back, not faxed the information.  Unaware of his earlier inquiry, and as luck would have it, I answered the phone the following day and was dumbfounded to learn that my husband's application for date-a-doll had been accepted and would be processed shortly. It didn't take long before the operator and I, amidst much pleading and begging on both parts, established that a mistake had been made and that my husband's details had been placed with another division of the company, a fax-back dating agency, not the sporting catalogue as requested ! Nevertheless, as confident as I am that it was a genuine error and as comical as the incident now seems, friends of my husband's may detect a slight limp...just in case !

I would like to congratulate Lorna and Mike Delanoy of Haddenham for each having been awarded an MBE in this year's honours list in recognition for their contribution to charity.

The Farmland Museum they founded, now situated at Denny Abbey, has raised a considerable amount of money for handicapped children over the years. Its objective was, and still is, to combine fun and learning with an opportunity to touch and see past experiences of our rural history.

The family's achievements don't stop there. Their son Kevin, educated at Witchford Village College, has gone on to be quite a recognised personality in the world of show business. The current block buster movie, Saving Private Ryan, was one on which he acted as Associate Producer. Other credits to his career include Braveheart and Titanic. Incidentally, you can spot him in the latter film as one of the Captain's crew. And he is currently abroad working on another film that is sure to be as big a hit as all the others he has contributed to.

You might remember that I wrote about a friend of mine some time ago whom I referred to as LD. I expressed then that I admired the woman and thought her to be an outstanding role model to younger generations. It seems that I am not alone in my opinion.

Never one to protest unnecessarily, this comment will cause my husband to make that 'tching' sound with his tongue, but does anyone else see the absurdity in a shop sign that reads; Touch if you must but pay if you bust, being displayed in large letters and in full view of the customer, when the most important bit of information, the price, is out of sight on the bottom of the item?

It seems simple enough logic that if a shopkeeper doesn't want the goods touched, something as essential as the price tag shouldn't be hidden in a place that makes it  unavoidable for the customer to handle the object.  And as proud of the imaginative yet often ignored ode as they are, If the price was as obvious as the insurance policy, there would be no need to forewarn us clumsy, fat fingered shoppers.

A grim warning of ill health in adult life has been forecast for today's teenager. They smoke, drink and eat too much of the wrong thing. Confounded by the fact that they don't get enough exercise to make up for it. The dilemma has been described by a Government survey of health as "sitting on a time bomb."

As much as I agree that today's juveniles need to be educated, if not alerted, to the damage that they inflict on their bodies, I am also aware that as adults we won't stop them with preaching of doom and gloom. It didn't work for our parents, likewise it won't work for us.

And, as little comfort as this is, children of today are the offspring of the 60's generation of teeny-boppers and flower power. An era infamous for its young having consumed more harmful substances than lab rats.  It doesn't improve the Government findings and it won't make a worried parent any happier to be reminded of their own youthful dance with danger. But it should help us to have faith that today's young will one day outgrow adolescence stupidity just as we did.

What embarrassing anguish does await our children however, just as big hair and flares did my generation, is photographs of their appalling dress sense.  When looking back on the fashionable rubbish they wore, all for the sake of individuality, today's teens will be far more disturbed and traumatised by their appearance than any high-jinx they got up to or inadequate food they consumed.

What is so valuable about a Beanie Baby? Only after being asked for the hundredth time to get the Britannia bear for someone back home, did I finally give in to my curiosity and investigate the riddle. I shouldn't have been surprised that the toy resembled nothing more than a stuffed sock with eyes. All obsessions seem ridiculous to the amateur. But what did shock me was that the crazed compulsion to own one has caused the original price of £3.99 to skyrocket to at least £1,000 on re-sale.  

I don't know how a consumer can get sucked in to such hype. But what I do know is that there are going to be some angry people when the bottom falls out of the market and these things end up being sold at a car-boot sale for fifty pence each.

For the most part, I am a skeptic.

It has always seemed wiser, if not safer, to trust in things I can actually see. Yet, despite my steadfast conviction in all things visible, I am still fascinated by mystical illusions. And just recently two stories such as the man at Cromwell House, featured in last weeks Ely Standard, who truly believed his shoes had been untied by a visiting spirit, and another in the form of an article in my husbands sporting magazine that depicted a tale where two shooters unknowingly chased the spirit of a dead poacher while under a full moon, have revived this interest in how or why ghosts choose their prey.

I promise you, it isn't out of mockery that I highlight these events. I would truly love to see a ghost. In fact, if I thought it would help bring on a visit, I would wear a black cloak, light a candle and bravely stand in the middle of a field at midnight ( I read somewhere that a woman inspired a visit by doing this) just to ensure I saw one. But knowing my luck, if I were fortunate and an apparition appeared, you can bet it wouldn't be an infamous historical figure or a noteworthy local hero that granted me the shadowy meeting. It would be the ghost of a long since dead and angry waitress who I complained bitterly about, possibly even got sacked. And just to top it off, she'd probably been having trouble locating me. And now that she has found me, plans on haunting me til' my dying days.

There is nothing more pretentious than the deliberate miss-spelling of a name.  Just a few short years ago if a proud mother had even contemplated bestowing the burden of Traacee, Aimee or Teena on her newborn, it would have cost her many coffee morning invitations. And possibly secured her an invitation to use a breathalyzer !

But because the motive behind such nonsense is that the more bizarre the concoction of letters, the more attention it gets the user, I fear it is here to stay.  Still, the trend does have one good point, it's no longer embarrassing if a mistake was made on your birth certificate changing the innocuous Cindy to an affected Cyndi. Today that makes you undeniably cool. Or should that be kool ?

It seems that people no longer limit their fascination for carnage and gore by going to the movies and watching the latest disaster film.

An appetite for real-life blood and guts appears to be splashing over into our everyday activities.

This fact has never been more evident than when my husband and I journeyed into London for an appointment and found ourselves in a long and stationary tail-back on the M25.

I must say that at first, I wasn't terribly sympathetic as to why we should be stuck. And added to the unpleasantness of our situation by whining about being late. Continuing to do so until the cause of the hold-up became clear. Upon approaching the monstrous obstacle, and after my other half had endured 45 minutes of my dulcet, melodious moaning, we saw that a horrific accident between two lorries where considerable damage to the vehicles, probably the drivers and most definitely the road had taken place.

Suddenly, I was ashamed of my complaints.But what was even more offensive than my unenlightened protesting was that on the other side of the motor way, completely unobstructed by what had happened, was a tail-back every bit as long and stationary as what we had just endured. And only because the oncoming motorists were slowing down and in some cases stopping to gape at the gruesome sight.

Considering the condition of the vehicles, the well-being of the two drivers is dubious. Making it even harder to imagine why anyone would want to witness such a scene. Paying a few pounds to watch a staged and carefully calculated stunt is, at best, oddly peculiar. Causing a major hold-up of traffic, not to mention endangering the situation further, merely to observe people in genuine torment is as low as a person can sink.

I only use my conventional oven when absolutely necessary. In fact, I am the only person I know that actually has to dust their cooker ! Due to the convenience of the microwave, Sarah Lee, and the fact that I was divinely blessed with a daughter who loves to bake, I have been spared the burden of ever having to prepare anything more elaborate than jelly.

When my babes were young and impressionable, I lied about who actually baked the fancy store-bought desserts I served, hiding the falsehoods by dumping the packaging before anyone saw them. This trick concealed my domestic incompetence for years.  And now to ensure my continuing suspension of duty, I shamelessly preach to my daughter that in order for her to perform such culinary perfection in her own household she needs to learn by practice.

But I fear a recent incident has blown my cover. I incomprehensibly decided to create a desert from scratch and immediately regretted my bravery when assembling the ingredients. The problem was that the recipe called for metric measurements and my utensils measured imperial. A minor detail that eluded me until the batter resembled the texture of lumpy soup. Not what was illustrated in the cook book.  

When I examined the instructions further, convinced I wasn't at fault, the error became clear. That's when I generously decided that it was best if I cast aside my apron and allow my daughter another cookery lesson... To my delight she calmly converted the weights and capacities with an impressive  accuracy and saved the event and our guests from having to drink their pudding .  It was only after the crisis that I began to doubt the prudence of enlisting my daughters help. Not so much because she repaired the situation in smug silence. But because of the question she asked while we cleared up the mess. "Mum, why didn't you just buy the dessert like you usually do?" This could mean that she either knows about the discarded boxes or thinks I used to be called Sarah Lee !


There is no doubt that the single European currency will be a significant factor in the coming millennium. And yet, as observed by Malcolm Moss in last weeks Ely Standard, folk are largely overlooking its potential impact.

But I think it's the method in which the people are being prepared that is to blame. Public servants lecturing us on the values or voids of the currency exchange or displays in grocery stores that are meant to prompt a Euro discussion, squander the opportunity to fully put the pros and cons forward. Mr. Moss's accounts of the French consumers ignoring the free biscuits and drink is a prime example. Shoppers worldwide are used to unnecessary items being promoted as "must-haves" and sidestep the complimentary tidbit because we dislike having to fake interest while the paid model recites her cheerful knowledge of the product that she herself only acquired two minutes before donning the apron.

And sadly, the only time a politician gets a captivated audience these days is when he has been caught with his pants down and the world wants a look.  No, if the Euro is to be seriously and sensibly debated then it should be given an appropriate setting. Something like a scantily clad politician at a local shop giving away free samples of the impending currency. Now that'll make people take note !  

A Fordham man, Frank Marshall has climbed the heights of Kilimanjaro. Reaching the summit in Tanzania in nine days. His accomplishment is all the more impressive since his incentive to attempt such a feat was to raise money for charity. And he did, £6,000 to be exact.

As well as my admiration for his courage and generosity, I envy the breathtaking view he must have had. And for the chance he was given to behold the world and all its silent splendor without the obstacle of civilization. What a feeling it must have given him to stand above all the violations and misconduct we inflict upon one another and for an all too brief moment, pretend they didn't exist.

Despite the many years I have spent in England, my American accent has remained as strong as ever. It took me a while to perfect the balance between our two supposedly similar varieties of English, but for the most part, I manage to blend in.  

That is, until such events as last Thursday when I came upon a person who presumed me to be a tourist. While trying to find a particular office in Cambridge, I asked a woman for directions. Her response was polite, if not slightly overly enthusiastic and accompanied by slow speech and hand gestures. Had it not been for the fact that she was trying to be helpful and my time limited, I would have forced her to examine the many credit cards, bills and tesco's receipts at the bottom of my handbag just to prove my long standing residency in this country. But instead, I thanked her for her time and humbly followed the instructions.

Far from this encounter making me want to curb my Arizonian annunciation's, it made me determined to emphasize them. But while I rehearsed my howdys and doodys, and before I had a chance to completely swell with patriotic pride, an American couple appeared on the scene asking in an annoyingly loud twang if they were anywhere near the bus station. I looked around, along with the rest of the crowd in the hopes that  someone else would volunteer to help, even though I could actually answer their question. But to my horror, the large American couple approached me and repeated their query!

Now, it's only fair that I explain that had these two been anything like as unobtrusive as I delude myself that all traveling Americans are, I wouldn't have hesitated for a second before helping them. However, that was not the case. This pair made it quite clear to all assembled that there should have been a bus station where the post office stood. And that it was the fault of the map, not theirs, that they were lost.  I struggled with my conscience, I faltered for a moment and then in true American form answered, "Ich habe keine Ahnung", and fled...

Sorry, nice British lady who only tried to help me, you are obviously more tolerant and well-mannered than I !

A project referred to as the "City of Anglia", that hopes to establish twenty communities and house over 500,000 people, has been proposed by the government advisory body, the Town and Country Planning Association.

Blueprints have been drawn up that are designed to increase the populace from Peterborough to Hatfield and Cambridge to Sandy by creating garden city style settlements. Of course, with an added assurance that a sufficient number of jobs in these expanded areas has been included in the prospectus .

Existing small local shops and rural concerns are already struggling to compete with the newer and bigger out-of-town super-stores. Before money is spent to generate these modern day enterprises, shouldn't it first be made available to help maintain the businesses that, in most cases, are battling to supply a much needed service ?

What's worse is that if the recent "Riverside" calamity in Ely is anything to go by, and it probably is, the people who will be most affected by the effects that these homesteads will create, will have the least amount of say in the matter. And it's more than likely a sugar-coated report will be published to support and justify this "brainchild" of an idea long before those very people have a chance to utter their misgivings.

But what this situation highlights more obviously than the ignored catalog of East Anglia's current shortfalls, including a police force that is over stretched to the point of inefficiency, schools that are already at a serious level of overcrowding, hospitals that now have a waiting list that last longer than most illnesses, is that the people who sanction this type of expansion regardless of the negative response it receives, must have faith that humans will one day inhabit the moon. And they may be right. Before long, that'll be the only place left to exploit.

Despite the fact that we won't be able to purchase the necessary digital box to receive its signal until next month, the BBC have launched their own version of a satellite style, multi-program channel, ironically called "BBC Choice".

But is it our choice. Since the BBC have joined the ranks of other terrestrial networks such as SKY and CABLE, isn't it time they also imitate their pay-as- you-view method and do away with the dreaded TV tax ?

Here in England a TV license costing over 80.00 pounds stirling ( approx. $133.30 ) per year to commercially subsidise the BBC is a mandatory requirement when a television set is purchased. Whether we want the BBC service or not !

What would happen if all the other channels charged a fee for their services based on the assumption that their programming technique (i.e. no commercial breaks) is a luxury you can't do without ? But I must confess that it isn't the cost stopping me from buying a new digital television set or the additional receiver. With all the complicated gadgetry and state-of-the-art technology that's needed just to work the video recorder and a satellite dish that enables us to watch more channels than is good for you, my husband already complains that our household could perform the duties of NASA !

To spank or not to spank ....that is the question that all parents must decide on. And quickly before junior is old enough to say the word 'ouch' and report you to a well meaning social worker who then reports you to a well meaning European Court of Human Rights Official where you may find yourself in the ludicrous situation of defending your prerogative to discipline your own child.

As my offspring are far too old to spank, and may I add, too large, I could be stepping on a few toes with my opinion, but nevertheless....When decent, hard-working, law-abiding parents are made to fear chastising their offspring for fear of being too excessive, the end result can only be one thing, spoiled brats that learn at an early age how to extort control and gain the authority. God help the future generations.

There was an almost comical series of events reported in last week's local newspapers.First, we read that there is going to be a staggering number of men made happy when Viagra becomes available on our NHS. All those who suffer from a lack of virility will soon be able to revive their love-lives.

Secondly, and in complete contradiction to the previous item, we have been alerted by the Cambridge Community Health Council who fear a serious 'overload' on the exsisting facilities and services in this region as a result of the fast growing population. It seems we have been populating at a faster rate in the last six years than any other county.

And thirdly, because of a shortage of midwives and cash expectant mothers have been notified that they may be asked to leave the hospital only hours after giving birth and could possibly be denied certain anesthetic drugs unless they are deemed medically necessary. (The doctor who tells a woman in the throws of labour that she doesn't need a painkiller could find himself in need of medical attention !)

It sounds to me that some of the problems facing the NHS are self-inflicted. Isn't the answer to this particular dilemma obvious? With statistics showing a growth rate that exceeds every other county in England and a health service that can no longer afford to accommodate the child bearing masses, instead of doctors prescribing Viagra it would be wiser, and more cost effective, if they advised the sex seeking males to take up golf !

Last summer, while the segment of the movie Saving Private Ryan was being filmed in this country I was kindly shown around its set by the Associte Producer, Kevin Del A Noy. My utter fascination with the details then has now been replaced with by fervent recommendation to go see the finished product. And although the involvement of Steven Spielberg on any film practically ensures success, it's fair to say that the subject of war and in particular, the second world war, still arouses deep seated passions and emotions despite the fact that over half a century has gone by. Mr. Del A Noy attended a regional premier in this country and spoke to a few of the audience after the showing. One woman echoed a comment I made while I toured the film set. As a school teacher she too felt it was almost a duty to encourage students to see the movie as part of their study course. In her opinion the movie would be a good tool in teaching youths about the realism of war. Regardless of the graphic battle scenes, a story-line honestly and unceremoniously depicting what men actually endure through the course of a war is a valuable lesson no matter what our age.

We have been invaded by the dreaded "rage" mentality in this country. And drivers are not the only catagory to qualify. From shopping cart rage to library rage it seems that today's people are so impatient and unforgiving that they would rather slug it out than turn a blind eye.

As usual, with the arrival of exam results in this country comes an onslaught of complaints that the tests of today are easier than that of say, twenty years ago.

The explanation for this is very simple, for all the soreheads who utter such nonsense, let me point out that as well as policemen looking younger, politicians seeming less moral and teachers fewer, the reason for the exams appearing easier is that you are getting OLDER!

There has got to be a reason why people are so damned impatient today. As I affably conversed with the postmaster about my packages, I was fully aware of a woman standing behind me tut-tutting and tch'ing her way through the entire transaction.

Had I been enquiring about the brakes on the car or the price of eggs, I would have understood her restlessness. But as I was attempting to send post overseas and needed to have each item weighed and stamped for customs, her fretting was entirely out of place. Not to mention, rude!

It is possible that she was in the middle of a mail crisis. She could have been anxious to send off the latest family photos to a distant relative. Or perhaps eager to get her hands on the lastest batch of Elvis stamps, whatever her reason, I will never know. But what I do know is that no matter how much noise she made with her tongue or how many times she audibly switched from foot to foot, the postmaster could weigh no faster nor lick quicker. And despite her unwillingness to wait her turn, she was stuck behind me until I was THROUGH ! And she should be grateful I didn't appear in the nationalpapers!

We can now shop for our groceries and even have them delivered via an on-line service any time of day or night. It was bad enough that a few major food chains in this country felt the need to go from opening six days a week to 24 hours a day. But at least the bread was fresh.

What happens if when you inspect your goods, ther's something wrong with the stuff ? I don't mind waiting in for the plumber but I draw a line at having tostay in and wait for a fresh batch of tomatoes !

Bill Clinton isn't the only President to be remembered more for his bedroom performances than his official duties. The Kennedy era alone still captures headlines and is often the subject of many books all becaue the brothers John and Bobby used the White House as a first class Babe - Hut ! And maybe Jackie pulled off the performance of a woman who would rather go bald than be seen to squabble over her husband's attentions towards another woman, but can we really be force fed the idea that Hil and Bill are closer now than ever? I don't think so.

If our first lady is standing by her man, even though he seems to stand by and possibly rub up against anything in a skirt, why did she bother with, and spend all that money on, a new face, figure wardrobe and image just to accept being treated like the little woman all pregnant and barefoot in the 1950's kitchen ? And why bother with an expensive education and the determined use of her maiden name if all she was going to do was revert back to an age where husbands did what they like, and called it masculinity?

Bill Clinton's (constant) poor judgement was bad enough, but Hilary's acceptance of his behaviour is by far the greater of the two sins. If not now, then in time to come Hilary may well regret her decision when history repeats itself and she has to stand by her daughter who is standing by her unfaithful man !

With parents like this for role models, Chelsea's can't fail but to repeat the pattern, guaranteed !

The anniversary of the death of Princess Dianna is looming making it difficult to know just how to behave. Some people are still deeply affected by the loss of her and have found it hard to carry on with their normal lives. I witnessed this for myself when I recently visited Althorp where the Princess is buried. And some have put the tragedy behind them simply marking the upcoming day with a mention or two of the event and leaving it at that. Up until recently I had no emotion or pain. Just curiosity as to how the day would be spent. While I walked along the grounds of the Althorp estate and into the house where Diana spent some of her childhood, I felt something. Not quite sadness, but something.It wasn't until I saw the memorial and the floral tributes still being layed in the 100's that I realised what it was.

It was a feeling of unsettled offence. The entire "trophy sight" has been professional arranged to pull the last ounce of symapthy and empathy from you as you tour the rooms and displays on offer. From the clothes she wore the home movies of her as a little girl, the air is thick with pity. I had an overwhelming desire to leave and NOT be one of the people conned into believing that it was in any way a tribute. The brother of Princess Diana made a good start when he addressed the mourners at the funeral. He gained high regard in this country alone for kicking the royal butt with his speech about Diana not needing her HRH title returned to her posthumously because she never lost it to the people who mattered.  But it seems that within the week he was able to push the dents out of his heart and do the business. In my opinion, the shrine at Althorp is now an enterprise that alleviates Lord Spencer from having to maintain the estate by generating money for the upkeep while he plays hard in another country. If the man truly respected his sister and wanted to pay a proper homage to her, he would have made sure that she rested in a place that meant something to himself and his family. Not merely paid for a burden he cares nothing for and lives nowhere near!

The Queen of England is so aware that her subjects feel distanced from the monarchy that she has stooped to visiting a McDonalds in an attempt to close the divide. It isn't necessary to disclose which McD's was given this honour, they're all the same no matter where in the world you are. Or for that matter, who in the world you are.

But before you get too excited, let me quickly tell you that our Queen didn't even try the Big Mac Deluxe with Extra Double Jumbo Fries (that come fury with salt or no salt at all because the hair-do on fry duty is usually too busy playing with Carl the cleaner to remember if she has carried out her other very important job and either salts them again or neglects to salt them at all.) and a diet Coke.

So it is with certainty that if "her in the tiara" didn't sample the food, she had no need to use the toilets. Although, I do wonder if the owners of this particular establishment might just have cleaned the bathrooms for once in anticipation. I bet this is one customer that wouldn't have had to dig in her handbag for a scrap of napkin in order to dry her hands. Or pump three consecutive dispensers before she found one with a trace of pink goo left in it.

The wisdom behind the journey into our part of the world was that if Her Royal Highness visits such an ordinary, everyday place, we the people will feel "at one" with her. We will feel that we now have something in common. If this was her goal perhaps then she should have been advised to wear something a little less ostentatious than her best Sunday frock and that damned unnecessary hand bag. Perhaps a very happenin' t-shirt with RELAX printed on it and a pair of 501 jeans finishing off the ensemble with trendy Reeboks.

And suffice it to say that most of us commoners would have been spared the indignity of getting our Rolls Royce's stuck in the drive-thru. Having to remove our insignia flags before we could proceed. I mean, surely the royal advisors know that we, the people only ever drive our Mercedes to get a burger!

But despair ye not, it could have been worse. We could so easily have been forced to read about her Clinton style escapades with a fine, tight bottomed , young stable lad who was only meant to tend to the horses when suddenly he finds himself being summoned to the palace for equestrian duties at three am.(Complete with glossy photographs splashed all over the tabloids the following day.) Had her spin doctors chosen another popular American pass-time for her to imitate!

I have recently spent some time in Scotland. A beautiful place. If it wasn't for the long drive I would go there more often. But as I hate flying and the train takes even longer than the car, I'll have to be satisfied with only the occasional excursion.

It was on or about the seventh hour of this journey that I had a brainstorm. And since my husband and I had exhausted all our "quality" conversation a half hour after pulling out of the drive-way, you can appriciate that I had plenty of time to come up with this little gem! As we sat behind a huge lorry (truck) I found myself reading the graffiti that had been drawn into the dirt on its back panel. Besides the instructions to "Wash me please" (how original), I read some pretty interesting items such as: What to do in the event of a nuclear war. Now, this does depend on whether Dave is actually home and handing out the gas masks since the instructions asked you to ring him for a free one. But nevertheless I continued reading.  Did you know that Snow White is partial to 7-up ? According to the print on this particular truck she is.....and if you don't believe me or the writer, ask the 7 dwarfs so the instructions urged. Do you think there's a sexual overtone to that one? I do. Anyhow, I had come to the last offering of witticism when I had my idea, the point of this story, you knew I had to get to it sooner or later, didn't you....

Why don't transportation companies rent out the space on the back panels of their trucks to advertise products? Wouldn't this be much nicer than the dreaded bill boards that litter our road sides ? Another bonus to this idea is that the advertisements would be mobile. A person wouldn't be forced into staring at the smug grin of some Barbie Doll with a hair-do trying to sell you motor oil every day for three months. (Yeah, like she knows where the nozzle goes for that job.) And far be it from me to point out how easy it would be to reach these ad campigns if a person had a black marker and a talent for moustache art !!!

Next week in honour of my sister Cathy in Phoenix and Mary in Boston, not to mention "B" in Texas, I'm going to tell my "HUMP" story. I mentioned it some time ago when I wrote the article about the "Little Shop" and since then I have had requests to divulge the tale.......

I spend an unusual amount of time perplexed by pointless absurdities that seem to pass by the Every-Day-Joe !
For instance: Why do
cameramen feel it is necessary to show us only half the face of a person being interviewed?
What's that all about? I get so irritated when the close-up shot of say, Mick Jagger's left eye, ear and cheek are the only thing visible throughout the interview ! Old Blue Lips is ugly enough...who wants to know what his ear hair looks like?
Similarly, does anyone know why Black & Decker's garden machinery makes such a din? I am the most hated person in my neighbourhood each Saturday morning when the hubby and I set about the trimming, weeding, mowing and edging of our lawns. Well, ok, I trim, weed, mow and edge, but his royal highness plugs in the strimmer and cranks up the mower. Bless him! I know that people are trying to sleep at the crack of noon come the week-end. But is it my fault that some of B & D's gadgets sound like low flying air craft?
And my least understood quandry: Who's responsible for the smell of synthetic fertiliser? I think the scientists got a bit ahead of themselves when they created the man made alternative to the cow pat...Please, don't get me wrong, I'm sure they have enough of an inferiority complex when it comes to their chosen profession without me adding to thier woes.... You know,, Teacher: "What does your father do Johnny?" Pupil: "He makes stuff smell like s__t." You can see where they'd have a problem with low self esteem. But I think someone should tell the producers of mock-muck that it wouldn't hurt to use the essence of roses when mixing the ingredients. After all, it isn't the smell that does the job! Oh, by the way...while we're on the subject of gardening....try and avoid wearing green gardneing gloves when you use an electric weeder. It makes it too damned difficult to tell a finger from a leafy stalk until you feel a spine chilling pain run from your fingernail to your arm pit...
I suggest bright Blue !

Ahh, Father's Day.

The day when dad gets to rest, relax and enjoy the television without arguement from the offspring. A day when he can sit back and take life easy...just becasue he's the dad. A day when the family gather together and eat a meal without complaint, without fuss.....And is it a coincidence that this celebration of paternal wonder fell on the longest day of the year? I think not, I trust any day that honours the one who didn't give birth, doesn't know where the laundry basket is, can't figure out how to work the vcr and won't even try and understand the importance of Oprah, would seem like the longest day of the year !

Because it has been a while since I last lived in America, I can not be sure how the mail advertising of prize draws and competitions works.
But here in England
it is a very profitable business to goad innocent people into believing that they genuinely stand a chance of winning luxury cruises or huge cash amounts by sending authentic looking paperwork through the post in hopes that the recipient will take the bait. Only to find out that the entire campaign was nothing more than an attempt to get the customer (or sap) to sign up for a subscription or membership of some kind. I think it's safe to say that a snowball has a greater chance of surviving hell than a person actually has of winning one of these contests.
In one week alone I received three different opportunities to be a millionair, yacht owner or the chance at two new cars plus a Sony Playstation with three games.
All of the above came with convincing, heart stopping announcements written on the front of the envelopes such as "Please open with care, WINNING ticket could be enclosed" As if the postman delivering this to my house wouldn't have decided that he would rather NOT drop it through my door and keep it for himself ! And on another, "High Priority - Do Not Disregard. It's enough to make your head swell..... Apart from the fact that the companies responsible for sending out such trash are treating the public as if they just got off a spaceship from Mars, it takes advantage of the truly desperate people who honestly have faith that if they subscribe, join or order something they will be in with a chance.
That is what I find so unforgivable. And that's why every time I get one of these invitations to win something I respond by writing a foul mouthed, mother dissing, picking on their one brain cell letter and send it back in the "YES" envelope that they have so generously provided for me.
Have you ever noticed that the "NO" envelope never has the postage if that isn't a clue.... I guarantee you will NEVER see my name on any winners list. Except of course for the time I won a holiday for two. I immedeately suspected that there was something a little time-share about the event becasue I hadn't actually entered a contest. So I acted thrilled, (it was an acadamy award winning performance) and gushed to the woman on the other end of the phone that I was unemployed and that my husband would be getting out of jail just at about the time the vacation was to be scheduled....
Funny, they forgot to send me my winners coupon !

For all of you who are unaware of the water shortage problem here in East Anglia in the last couple of years, I will quickly bring you up to date. WE HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO USE OUR GARDEN HOSES ! There, that should do it. So you can imagine how happy I was when I read an article in our local paper that said Anglian Water and the Cambridge Water Company are confident that we shouldn't have any further restrictions on our water use through this coming summer.

And yet, I'm baffled. Isn't England an Island ? Shouldn't we be swimming (pun intended) in the stuff ? Isn't our H2O shortage a bit like Fergie complaining that she doesn't have enough self confidence? (talk about swimming in the stuff !) Surely if we can extract oil from the sea we should expect that extracting water for domestic purposes isn't all that difficult.

I did not need to read the article that proclaimed "Adults Too Busy to Learn". I have sad proof of this for myself. While trying to figure out what was wrong with my printer I pushed buttons and flipped switches to no avail and was on the verge of taking the thing to pieces when my 13 year old daughter, whose schedule resembles a snail taking a day off, pointed out that my problem was a lack of electricity. My printer was unplugged from the socket.

Just as she was educating me on the matters of the obvious, I suddenly remembered that I had unplugged it myself to use the vacuum cleaner. So, you see, had I been less active, less busy, I would have "LEARNED" this for myself. As it is I'll be lucky to remember where I put the vacuum the next time I need it!

My gem of the week: Two elderly ladies sitting in a local restaurant. Lady number one asked for the mustard. Lady number two asked her to repeat what she said. "Please pass me the mustard." "Oh", says lady two, with complete earnest, "I thought you asked me to pass you my musket."

Now, when was the last time someone asked you to pass them your musket?

Family History

Perhaps this isn't staggering news to many readers but it fascinated me to see that cousins who hadn't met in 47 years, found each other on the internet while both researched their family history. One man lives in Indiana USA and the other in Cambridgeshire here in England.Often it is only the internet horror stories that make the headlines. So it is nice to read about an all too rare happy ending.

It did make me wonder though, just how many people actually go in search of long lost family members in this way. And where do they begin ? I know that after spending over 20 years living in America I have met and familiarised myself with just about all the family I have. However, if there is someone reading this that can tell me how to start searching the family tree, please share your information with me. Because there can only be one thing nicer than finding out you have a distant cousin or aunty that you knew nothing about.....and that's finding out that you have a distant uncle with plenty of money and no other living relatives!

Let Me Entertain You!

Summer is fastly approaching. Not that you can tell by our weather but by the endless bombardment of vacation advertisement and package deals promising you heaven on earth. For me, there is no finer place than right here in England. If you love history, we have it. If it's country pursuits that interest you, look no further. Night-life is also on offer but I wouldn't know anything about that. The last time I was in an establishment that played modern dance music (I think they called them disco's) Jimmy Carter was in the White House and toe socks were all the rage.

But I have been told by numerous friends and relatives that Cambridge is a 'hapnin' place at night. And I'm sure that's a good thing !

When Mum Visits

I am expecting a visitor from the USA soon. My mother is coming to stay with us and will be spending a few weeks visiting with her grandchildren and looking around the area. I truely look forward to her arrival because no matter how old I am, I still feel like a child that needs help and assistance just to get through the day whenever she's with me. She's never actually spoken the words "HOW ON EARTH DO YOU COPE WHEN I'M NOT HERE? But I know she must think them! Anyway, it will be wonderful to take her to the sights and catch up on all the news from back home.....oh, and finally get that mountain of ironing done that has been growing and multiplying since January.

War Crimes?

I had planned on writing about something completely different this week. Particularly the flood victims in Buckinghamshire that have been billed for the rescue services of their fire department. That is until I saw an article about an old soldier.

Ken Gibson from Littleport near Ely is an ex-prisoner of war and still suffers the side effects of brutal starvation and torture he endured while being held captive in a Japanese prison camp during the second world war.

He is upset by the decision to make Emperor Akihito an Honorary Knight of the Garter during his state visit here next month. And claims to be appalled by the judgement and insensitivity of the Queen and Prime Minister. I should think so too. There is only one thing worse than watching your fellow fighters suffer and die as a result of barbaric punishment in the name of war - and that is to watch a leader from that country who upholds the mistreatment, honoured by the very establishment you fought to protect.

I have heard all the arguements about moving with the times and forging new bonds with other countries despite our historical differences. But that concept doesn't apply in this situation. Before Akihito accepts the honour his country should be forced to pay for the ill health and suffering that manymen such as Mr. Gibson still endure.

It is unacceptable that our government can overlook the insult of giving Emperor Akihito such a distinction without having considered what a slap in the face it is to the vetrans of that war.


I was lucky to miss out on the flooding that has swept through East Anglia. It looked at one point as if me and my family would have to live on the upper floor of our home for a while. But as luck would have it, the rains eased and the floods never reached us.

I assumed the worst was over when weather reports signalled the all clear. Whew... too close for me ! I was one of the fortunate ones. It wasn't until I watched the news that I became aware of another type of danger flowing our way....and it wasn't rain water.
The reports were warning flood victims about the "cowboy" (sorry Texans) builders and repair services that will now add to the damage by ripping off innocent people with bogus claims and repair promises. Is there life form so low ? Can humans sink to this level? Obviously so.

One piece of helpful information the report gave was for all victims to check with the American equivalent of the Better Business Bureau to make sure that the company is listed and no complaints are filed. I'll go one better, ask on the internet. You would be amazed at how many people are willing to tell their story. In particular, the sad ones (story that is, not people)


I was given another suggestion, this time by my taxi driver. She asked why England should be having such trouble with the class over crowding situation when the present Government promised to make class sizes (limiting them) a priority in their campaign.

I don't think anyone world wide is surprised a politician has difficulty in keeping a promise. But this one does seem to be a flagrant breech of trust. I have often questioned why the government allows the Lottery money to build up and then be distributed amongst unworthy, and excuse my french, ridiculously asinine and wasteful, causes such as how long it takes for a lizards tail to grow back !!!!

Our government should be intelligent enough to appreciate that the masses of people who gamble on the twice weekly event wouldn't mind so much about the doubtful likelihood of winning the jackpot if we knew that the gazillions of pounds that it raises went to the betterment of our education system. Heck, I'd even go all out and buy two tickets to see that happen ...


It will be Mother's day in England soon. Unlike the American version, it is celebrated in March. This creates some very odd behavior on my part.

I always intend to send something nice to my mother but always forget when she celebrates her day....And if I do manage to get something in the post when cards are available here, then she hasn't a clue as to why I have waited so long to send her something. I can't win....

Mother's day isn't given anything like it's fair share of recognition. My mother had five of us little darlings to cook for, clean up after and ear clip into good behaviour every day for the better part of twenty years. And our day of showering her with gratitude usually required her to referee while we "did things for ourselves".

It hardly seems fair that we only acknowledge what a mother does for her children for one day a year. Even something as ridiculous as British Fashion gets a week for goodness sake! Well, a month actually if you allow for the time it takes to make the models look that scary.

No, if we are going to set aside time to commemorate what a mother means to us, we should do it right. It should be a week of not having to separate the children when they fight. Or cook a meal that nobody eats but everybody nagged for. Not having to force the laundry through it's paces until it comes out the other side all cleaned and pressed. And most important, not having to find something that mysteriously disappeared without any of the children having touched it !

Of course, one draw back to the week of bliss is that once it is all over, mothers will have to invent a "Hire a Maid Week" just to get over the break they had....

The Wonder of Ely Cathedral

For as long as I have lived in this part of England I have never gotten tired of going to the Ely Cathedral. It is a place of worship and inspiration to many. But a place of fascination for many more. When family visit from the United States and ask to see something of East Anglia, I know just where to take them. We always end up spending far more time touring the beautiful exhibits and historical offerings for much longer than was originally planned. Only once was I lucky enough to coincide one of our visits with the Christmas services and experience the choir of angelic voices along with the Yule celebration. It never fails to impress my family and friends. In fact, it never fails to impress the locals either!

The Wonder of MacDonalds!!

An establishment as internationally known as McDonald's should be a place where you can guarantee being able to make yourself understood. Not so. My order was two hamburgers, two fries, one coffee and one soda. Simple enough? Not by a long chalk. The trouble was that I was speaking to a foreign exchange student who was visiting this fine country in order to improve her English. Where better to do that then McD's I hear you say.... To cut a long story short, I ended up having to point to the pictures behind her head in order to be understood. It was the first time in all my years in England that I felt like the foreigner!

The Wonderful Weather!

For some, the word "El Nino" means nothing. And for others, it means an unholy storm that ripped the roof of their house off. It is a weather front that has been harassing the west coast of America for some time now. My sister Sharon ,who lives in California, says that to start with not many people paid much attention to the weather men when they predicted the intensity of the storms....BIG MISTAKE ! Here in England, we pay very careful attention to our honourable weather persons (I don't like to offend the ladies). I for one listen in the morning and dress accordingly. For instance, when sunshine is predicted, the brollie gets a dusting and sits by the front door waiting for use!. Equally, when a storm had been forecast for my area....we light up the bar-b-q . See, it's that easy. It does occur to me every now and then that the weather people might just know this and have a little fun at our expense. How else could anyone do that job day after day, week after week.?

The Not So-Wonderful Parking Situation!

Traffic is a problem in our fair neck of the woods. If we manage to park the car anywhere close to where we want to shop, we can't leave it for more than a few hours. I don't know about any of you, but it takes me that long to find the news agents! If the Ely of tomorrow is really going to be brought into line with the coming of the millennium, why don't the council pedestrianise the historical cities and provide us with out of town parking that allows us enough time to get from vehicle to shop without feeling as though we have taken part in the London marathon?

Anne deBondt - March 1998

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