Never too old

russiagranniesAh Agatha dear heart.  Lovely to see you.  Come in and taste Ethel’s delectable meringues.

Mary dear, sounds delightful, and I am somewhat peckish after my morning pointing and sorting papers at our local polling station, you could say that we got into quite an Eton Mess with it all!

Well, we do have some cream and some of our lovely raspberries from the greenhouse to go with them.  I’d quite forgotten about that voting malarkey, which is a tad remiss of me considering all those wonderful women who suffered so that we could have the vote in the first place.

You are absolutely right dear friend, one has to try at least, even when it all looks rather like an uphill struggle.

I agree Agatha.  I say – you do seem a tad discombobulated today.  Perhaps you should stay off the gin until mid afternoon dear.

Mary!  I haven’t touched a drop.  But the Doctor advised I should try some new fangled pill and the side effects make me feel quite peculiar.  My mouth feels drier than the humour in the House of Lords.

Well, I prescribe some strong tea then.  I’ll ring for Ethel.

Thankyou dear.  Anyway, the voting started with quite a solid flow of suited and booted arriving early before going off to work, then mums with pushchairs and by 11am the geriatric brigade with their sticks and walking frames; I do believe they enjoy the trip out.

SUFFRAGETTE/MISS PANKHURST

And you are older than most of them dear.

As indeed we both are dear…but I must admit I’ve been particularly lucky to remain mobile and not to succumb to the family condition like poor Uncle Fortesque.  His ankles became quite the talk of society you know.  But I digress, shall you vote later?

Well, I’m sure Ethel’s tea and meringues will perk me right up and then I can toddle off down to the local village hall and put my mark on the paper.   But, dear, I have no idea who I’d currently vote for as I’ve not seen anything convincing from any party.

I know what you mean Mary dear, it’s as though Theresa had a new haircut to divert attention from the importance of the local elections.

Well, one must keep in mind the big one in June of course.  And despite the evidence that the result is a foregone conclusion, the pollsters have got it wrong before. It’s never over until the fat lady sings as they say.  Which reminds me.  You didn’t manage to hear Madelaine Cauli-Floret sing at the parish council event the other evening?

Oh yes, Mary dear, what an experience.  I had quite forgotten how …. individual….. a singer she is.  Some of the ladies went quite into a swoon at her rendition of Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden.  Fortunately she was prevented from completing an encore of ‘Three Little Maids’ by Bernard Snubbings.  He’s not a man I care to associate with, following that nasty incident with the mustard at the Little Milford Church Benevolent Fund Summer Feast last year.  It quite put me off my sausages.

It sounds eventful dear, and I am sorry that I missed it. I’ve been up to my eyes in all my sorting out and packing for our trip to Bangkok.  All my summer outfits seem to have unaccountably shrunk since last year.   I will be forced to purchase some news items which is such a bore.  

Oh a trip up to town might be just the tonic we need dear.  I can ask Snetter to drop us at the station.

Yes, of course that would be splendid.  But I can’t help worrying about people like the tuneful Madelaine, and my dear Count, who could be made to leave England if we experience a hard Brexit.

Oh Mary dear, don’t upset yourself I’m sure that it won’t come to that, we’ve been over this before if you recall.  You know our economy can’t survive without all our European colleagues and besides dear one, it is the Eurovision song contest this weekend.

Agatha, goodness you don’t still follow that do you?

Indeed I do dear one and I must say it is a tonic.  My darling Algie is coming over with his lovely partner Daniel Blyth-Williamson and we shall be decorating the house entirely in glitter balls.  I do believe Martha is going for quite a European themed buffet too.  You and the Count must come over.  I think it will cheer your spirits entirely.

eurovision

Do you believe we’ll get any points this year?

Well, it’s a long time certainly since we lifted the trophy dear one, but never say never. At least we can be thankful that that is one thing European that we will continue to support. And, between you and me, the rumour from Minnie Piersflight is that Prince Philip has retired precisely so he can watch the events from Thursday onwards.

Really dear, I didn’t know that he was a fan?

Oh absolutely, I would trust my crocheted hats to Minnie – whatever she says can be totally and discreetly relied upon.  Apparently it’s not a side of the Duke’s persona that he likes to publicise.  I do believe he even wrote a line or two for our dear Terry Wogan when he was compering the show!

Goodness me Agatha, that does explain a lot.  I do think he’s been an amazing ambassador though, despite some of his gaffes.  Of course it’s a shame that we won’t witness what he might have said to President Trump when he visits later this year.

Quite dear.  Perhaps it’s best Philip is retiring, given that the President appears rather quick to anger, and somewhat trigger-happy.

Perish the thought, Agatha.  More tea and another meringue?

htc-eton-mess

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/international/european/british/eton-mess

Gallivanting and Golf

8108_Lady-golfer-old

Ah, Mary dear, so glad you are here.  I just need you to witness my application form with your signature.

What’s this for Agatha?

Well, Muirfield Golf Club of course.

Golf!  You haven’t taken a swipe at a ball for many years dear heart.  Why now?

Because, I vowed to be one of the first ladies to join the club when they overturned their archaic ruling not to allow women members.  I wanted to be at the forefront of the revolution to see skirts abounding across the greens.

Jolly good show.  When do you plan to visit and sink a few balls then?

I thought we could trundle up there together at the weekend.  Are you free?  I can get Snetter to drive us in the Daimler so we should be comfortable.  And we can stop in Oxford to buy some proper golfing shoes with little spikes in.  Good for the grip don’t you know.

That sounds totally spiffing Agatha.  The Count is a visiting cousin in Italy at the weekend so I would love to join you.  Is there not a waiting list?

Funnily enough, there is.  But I have an old chum who can sign me in as a guest for now.  Do you remember Dougal Mactwittle?  He used to play the drums at our annual WI tea dance.  He always looked so splendid in his kilt twirling his sticks about.

007

Of course I do.  He always caused a stir, sitting up on the stage, legs akimbo, pounding away with his sticks.  It never seemed to be his drum skills that caused the sensation if I remember correctly.  I do remember that one time when Dorothea Andrews was quite in a swoon, simply saw what she’d never seen before, if I remember correctly.

Yes, very Aunt Ada Doom dear one, but I do hear that she is quite the liberated woman now.  I believe she even did some work for Good Housekeeping testing ladies toys of some kind I believe.  

By jingo, good for her!  That might explain the new glow she seems to have these days.

Well, as I was saying, whilst Dougal’s undergarments were somewhat lacking, his golfing skills are still rather top notch.   Anyway, he seemed surprised that I wanted to join the golf club at all, saying that it will take quite some time to move on from their rather Victorian culture.

Well, that’s as may be but unless we keep persevering and pushing through barriers nothing will change at all and we’ll all become quite invisible.

Indeed so Mary dear.  If I can wield a club and knock of few of those crusty old codgers off their pedestals it will be effort well spent.

Oh splendid Agatha, quite spiffingly splendid!  A jolly caper north of the border before we have to start using passports will be just the ticket.

Yes, indeed.  Goodness knows what the next few years will bring – maybe there’ll be another great wall between us and Scotland if they decide to leave us.

Goodness, we certainly live in worrying times dear one, but Agatha let us not lose hope.  Let us not drown in the sorrows of the world, let us rise above them and together challenge the oppressors and blow raspberries in their faces, let us not go into that dark night alone….

Oh Mary dear, do stop – you’ve gone quite Winston Churchill on me.  You’ve worked yourself up into quite a lather.  Here, have one of Ethel’s delicious éclairs.  The cream is quite delicious you know and besides you have your wonderful trip to Bangkok and beyond to look forward to.

Oh yes, we have already started packing.  I dug out my old bikini yesterday.  It was a bit the worse for wear after our wonderful trip to Egypt last year.  It still had sand in the cups.

Goodness, that sand did find it’s way into the most inconvenient places.   Why don’t you treat yourself to a new one, after all you don’t want to end up like Peggy in The Archers with nothing to cover her modesty but her arms and the water!

I say Agatha, you’ve got a point there.  The problem is the construction… you know perfectly well that there’s a limited range in the shops for my endowment.  We may have to go back to our dear lady at Rigby & Peller to see whether they can assist with an architectural project that will keep my frontage in check.

Well at least you still have the courage to wear a bikini.  I haven’t revealed my midriff since 1984.  And as for my thighs – well you know I make full use of my sarong at all times.  One really must consider one’s public you know.

I believe there is simply no point in caring what others think any more.  We are well into our dotage, Agatha dear, and I do not give a jot about fitting into some outdated stereotype of what a woman’s body should look like.  Mine has served me perfectly well for years.

By jove Mary, long may it continue to do so.  But remember when we were on the deck of our Nile cruiser last year?  We did elicit some alarm from some French tourists.  You know how slim they all are.  One poor lady choked on her Bellini when you whipped off your towel.

I do believe she was jealous!  Besides, they quickly became distracted when you dived in to rescue poor Binky; but you have given me an idea – perhaps I shall just go topless as they do in France – n’est pas?

Mary dear, Europe may be sad to see us leave, but I’m not sure if the world is quite ready for your unfettered frontage.

You might be right Agatha.  Perhaps we should call for some more tea and start to plan our route up to Scotland.  Wouldn’t it be fun to drop in on our dear friends Olive Croissant and Fanny Chevaux on our way?

What a splendid idea.  I am given to understand that they have expanded their cat’s home to incorporate training in acrobatics.

Acrobatics!  For cats?

cat

Yes indeed.  Who knew our furry friends could be so adept on the pommel horse and the parallel bars.  The mind quite boggles.

Quite.  Although perhaps the two ladies could be losing their grip on reality.  

No really, I have seen the photographs.  They do shows and are thinking about touring the country.  In fact they have been in touch with our dear Author friend Eileen who has been studying acrobatics in China.  She is flying back to give a masterclass.

How wonderful.  Tea dear?

Lovely.  Chin chin.

09-01-Trex-chocolate-eclairs-Lets-Bake-recipe-book_450x450

Recipe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pauls_chocolate_clairs_59944

 

Reasons to be cheerful – part three

ian-dury-london-19842

You know Agatha, I was just looking into all the various vaccinations one needs for travelling around Asia, and it got me to thinking how lucky we are to be able to prevent some of those dreadful diseases in the western world.  I was thinking about polio for example.  What a terrible thing, and still prevalent in some countries.  But it affected many people before the vaccine was introduced here in the 1950s.  

Indeed my dear, and even some beyond the 1950’s.  Don’t you remember the lovely Christopher Longden, such a wonderful boy and spent so much of his time in calipers.  

Goodness yes Agatha, but he was so incredibly plucky and then of course there is the dear departed Ian Dury,  not that his disability stopped him from achieving great things.

By jingo Mary, yes.  What a revolutionary chap he was.  Do you remember when we danced like lunatics to his tunes?  I do think it’s fair to say that we got a better reaction than when we Charlestoned for the first time at Charlie Fairweathers!  Of course, that was back in the day when we were young enough to fling our bodies about with gay abandon?

Well speak for yourself darling, I seem to remember that there was a certain amount of gay abandon at the belly dancing show at Christmas.  But of course my flexibility is not what it was.  Gone are the days when we could touch our toes dear.

Ah yes, the 1970s.  The decade that fashion forgot, but the music was certainly life changing.  And, doesn’t it seem as if things were much simpler in those days?  We just had a few too many ciders and danced with our friends.  Nowadays there is not so much dancing.  

punkgirls

I’m afraid you’re quite right Agatha.  But of course in our day the evening started much earlier and with just a couple of strong ciders!

Quite so dear one.  It seems that today the youngsters don’t even go out until midnight, which could explain why they seem to be obsessed with taking photographs of themselves and putting them on social media.  It really makes one wonder if they actually know how to let themselves go?

Or even talk to one another!  Goodness me, the debates and larks we’d have.  Of course, we were as they say ‘living the moment’ rather than taking a snapshot of it. I do believe that makes all the difference.

Yes, one does wonder dear.  And if they don’t know how to enjoy the moment, as you say, then how do they manage to make real friendships?  It’s all incredibly distressing.  If everything they do is through the lens, nothing is actually real.

Quite dear, mobile devices and the internet are all well and good for keeping in touch, but when they control your behaviour, well, that’s quite another thing entirely.

No wonder society is going down the jolly old drain.  But what can one do dear?

Well I do hope that on our spiffingly exciting travels we’ll be able to encourage people to enjoy each other’s company.  Talk about their lives, good and bad, spend a whole evening chatting about music, books, films, politics – what is going on in the world, rather than just taking pictures, modifying them with apps and posting them up on social media to count how many likes they have in order to make yourself feel good.

Gosh dear, you seem quite incensed by this!

Well confound it Agatha, I do believe I am.  And it’s because I have been alive long enough to know what really makes one happy.

Aren’t we getting a bit philosophical dear?  But, please, do tell… Is it cake, gin that type of thing?

Well of course those things certainly help.  But I have concluded that friends are the thing.

It goes without saying dear one.  Good friends are absolutely vital to a long and happy life.  Whoever you are.  They get you through the ups and downs of life.

Yes, and given that we are currently in a bit of a gloomy dip, I count you and my other dear friends as the reasons I stay cheerful despite what the politicians and the media want us to feel.

Guacamole.

Pardon?

Guacamole has always struck me as rather a gloomy dip.  I mean, it starts off all green and lush, but quickly turns brown and unpleasant.

Yes dear.  Not quite what I meant, but you have a point of course.

Being rather silly, and porridge oats.

I think you need a large gin Agatha.

I always need a large gin, Mary dear, but in this case I was simply recalling one of my favourite lines from Reasons to be cheerful part three.  Ian Dury and the Blockheads, a fine song and full of rather wonderful lines.

Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty, going on 40.

Oh yes.  Shall we put it on the stereo and have a listen.  It will take us back to our younger years.

The hair and makeup – do you remember?

I try to forget Agatha dear.  But I do have plenty of happy memories of that time.  Do you remember when we spent the summer at your cousin Isabel’s olive farm in Italy?

Oh yes indeed I do.  I particularly remember the scrapes we got ourselves into.  Gianni comes to mind.  Isabel’s top picker.  I do recall one sultry night when he ‘picked’ you out. We’d became quite frantic about you when you hadn’t returned by the small hours.  

Oh really Agatha, I thought the days of you reminding me of that had long passed.  You know perfectly well that Gianni was not entirely responsible for my dress getting entangled in the olive nets.  It was merely an accident owing, I believe, to rather a luscious supply of Chianti and Gianni’s Italian charm.  As you well know I was merely trying to understand what he was saying.  I think he was explaining the finer points of harvesting the fruits, it all seemed terribly romantic of course.

Did the Count ever find out?

Well, nothing really happened of course, but he did punch Gianni in the nose later that year.  He told me at the time it was all over some silly argument about the offside rule…. (both ladies look blank)…. but I think he was really protecting my reputation.

Oh but the jolly capers and scrapes we got into, they are the glue that cements a friendship, don’t you think?  

Of course, that and learning how to belly dance together.

And helping each other.  You were totally spiffing in Egypt last year.  I don’t believe I would have managed to get over that rotter Binky without your help and counsel.  I’d have probably gone into a total funk after he tried to pinch my jewels.  

You would do the same for me dear.  Let’s have some of that delicious Black Forest Gateau Mabel has constructed.  That will also take us back to the 1970s dear one.

How absolutely marvellous dear.  Cheers, and here’s to fabulous friendships!

Indeed.  To friendships!

recipe-image-legacy-id-989514_11

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2303676/black-forest-gteau

3 Little Buttons

 

Reasons to be cheerful – part two

laughing

Agatha dear, do come in.  I’ve got some rather spiffing news.

Oh what a thrill Mary dear.  One can always do with a little light entertainment to brighten the day.  Now, don’t tell me. Has the Count finally won the annual Little-Snetherton Ping Pong Championships?

Oh good gracious, no unfortunately not dear.  This news is far more exciting.

Well Mary, if that is indeed the case I feel that I may need some of Martha’s sterling bread pudding to steady the nerves.

Agatha dear, I feel we can do a tad better than that….Angus has found a rather topping bottle of the Bolly ’27.

Goodness!  Isn’t that a little excessive for elevenses?

Nonsense Agatha it’s in perfect keeping.  Now, do sit down before I burst!  Here (passes Agatha a glass of the aforementioned Bolly)…. The Count and I are going travelling.

I’m sorry dear, did you say that you AND THE COUNT are going travelling?  Are you feeling quite well?  I know that we found our sojourn to Egypt quite invigorating, but surely you realise that you are not spring chickens any more.  The thought of you struggling across windswept plains with a large knapksack strapped to your back, or staying in a hostel and smoking unusual plants makes me feel quite peculiar.

vinatge-style

Don’t fret my dear friend.  I have decided that it’s a corking plan.  Just what is needed at our time of life and I feel quite exhilarated by the whole idea.  I must say that the very thought of it has quite taken 10 years off of me and The Count is skipping about like a youthful seventy year old.

Mary dear, I think that may just simply be a side effect of the champagne.  But that said, you do seem to be quite fixed on the notion.

Agatha, indeed we are, but I must confess that there is a part of me that is a trifle concerned about leaving you behind.  Particularly as poor Binkie is no longer around to look after you.

Oh please don’t fret about me, my dear.  Binkie is reaping his just desserts and although I will always be fond of him, he will simply never change his conniving ways, even though I am the most determined woman there is nothing to be done.  Besides, Snetter manages the house very well and dear Algie is always on hand to guide me through any mishap.

Of course dear one.  How is Algie after his rather belated ‘coming out’?  I understand that it was quite a shock in some circles.

Mary dear, he is quite the changed man.  It’s as though the weight of the past years has been lifted and he is in a perpetual Disney movie, bursting into song when ever he gets the opportunity.  Of course the government pardoning so many gay gentlemen for their so-called crimes, has made a huge difference.  But, I do believe that Daniel has certainly played a part in his new-found happiness.

That wouldn’t be Daniel of the Blyth-Williamsons by any chance?  He’s a total charmer my dear, comes from a delightful family and all so well connected.  I believe they own quite a substantial amount of Shropshire.  Maud Clevington-Simms knows the whole crowd.

Yes, quite right Mary dear.  I must admit – he’s quite the scoop!  But goodness me, how is Maud?  I haven’t seen her since Fenella Hart-Worthy put mustard powder in her lingerie drawer when we were in the 4th form at St Margaret for the Pure of Heart.  Poor gal was in the infirmary for weeks and then when she recovered from the itching and embarrassment, her family packed her off to a finishing school in Switzerland.  I have only heard vague rumours about her rather unusual life from Fenella.  She never married, I heard.

No, but she had liaisons in several countries, and five children.  Made a bundle on those self help meditation books she wrote after her years out East.  But she looks chipper.  She keeps rabbits now, apparently her house is teeming with the little blighters, but she seems happy.  We met for tea at Claridges on Tuesday and she mentioned that she has friends out in Bangkok.  In fact she has put me in touch with a couple of chaps who may be able to help us find some accommodation.

Bangkok!  Are you sure dear?  I understand the city is a tad different to the rolling hills and leafy lanes of Sussex.  In fact, last year, before I discovered his true nature, Binky took me to a show in Brighton.  I thought it was going to be a rather splendid  Oscar Wilde type of thing.  But the Bangkok Lady Boys were quite a revelation.  I needed several stiff gins afterwards at the hotel to calm my nerves.

Don’t worry dear.  The Count is quite broad minded as you know.  And I am just looking forward to being immersed in something totally new, however risque.  It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, the plan is to learn about other cultures and different ways of life.

the-white-temple-chiang-rai-2-1024x681

You know what Mary dear?  I do believe you’re onto something – wider understanding, wider horizons etc.  What with all this bally business of Brexit and Trump, perhaps your rather wild idea seems quite sensible.  Who knows, I may come out and join you.   When I was Head of Jam at the WI I worked with a charming chap.  He was Malaysian.  There’s a remote possibility that he’d still be alive I think.

Dear one, you can’t be serious!  Surely Che Cheng would be over a hundred by now?

Quite possibly Mary, quite possibly.  There’s always a chance though don’t you think?

Absolutely Agatha.  Now how about some more bubbly and a slice of that delicious bread pudding?

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/13355/bread-pudding

breadpudding

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Reasons to be cheerful – part One.

happyAh Mary dear  do come in and take a pew.  I’ve had some ideas on how to tackle those pesky winter doldrums.

That sounds fabulous darling.  We certainly need something to cheer ourselves in these dark and chilly days.

Bonfires!

I beg your pardon dear one?

Snetter set a bonfire at the weekend.  And I must say it rather bought the child out in me.  I was dashing about the garden, looking for sticks and poking it with the rake.  Such delightful fun!

I did think I could smell something smoky about your person when you embraced me just now.  And your hair has taken on a certain life of it’s own this morning.

Oh yes, well it did get a little out of hand, the odd spark flying about and igniting the lashings of hairspray I normally use on a Sunday.  Still, Snetter managed to quash the flames with a swift swipe of the garden broom.  Left me reeling a little dear, but nothing a stiff gin couldn’t fix.

smokinghair

Anyway, as I say, it warmed me up, got me moving about and prevented that terrible Sunday feeling one gets of impending doom, well at least until tea time when there’s always blancmange and jelly.

Yes, I do know that feeling dear heart. The Count has been unusually down recently.  All this talk of leaving Europe has set his moustaches quite a quiver, he is plotting something and I do hope it’s not dangerous.  You remember he has quite a penchant for explosives. Indeed, as you know, one of the reasons he married me was my lineage and my relationship to Guy Fawkes.

You don’t think he’s plotting to overthrow the Government?

I certainly hope not, although what he’ll do when Trump gets here I wouldn’t like to say. Let’s hope he’s not too rash.  But I know he is very upset, particularly at the possibility that this Brexit situation could tear us apart.  I mean, he may be forced to return permanently to Italy and one wonders if I would be welcome there.  It’s all rather depressing.

Don’t worry Mary dear.  I’m sure it won’t come to that.  We must sort out some charity work soon, that always cheers one’s heart.

Yes, lovely idea.  Although one wouldn’t want to expose oneself just now.

What do you mean?

Belly dancing.  Not until I have shed my Christmas poundage dear.

But dear one, don’t you feel that it sort of adds to the wobble factor?  I know that once I get going my flesh does seem to have a mind completely of it’s own.

Agatha dear, while you may enjoy liberating your upper regions,  my cleavage has quite blossomed over the festive period.  Hence, the lingerie that I purchased from Rigby & Peller last year is somewhat snug, so the excess just has to go dear.  So I was thinking that we could perhaps do a sponsored weight loss, or fitness whatnot.  Raise some cash for charity in the process.

Do you mean one of those videos where the young and gorgeous dash about in Lycra?

Well ….

But Mary dear, it’s a long time since I’ve seen Bruno Tonioli cutting a dash, but I think I still have his contact details.  Snetter would be able to find them I’m sure.

Agatha, I don’t mean that we ask someone to do a video, but that we do one ourselves.

Mary dear that sounds spiffing, but I think it’s more likely that people would pay not to watch us leaping about in leotards.  Perhaps, instead, we could press our friends to join in with a plan to lose weight and sponsor us at the same time.

Oh yes, I do like that idea.  What kind of things could we do then?

Well, eating less cake might be one.

Heaven forbid, no, I simply cannot do without my cake.

Well, perhaps less gin.

Have you gone quite mad Agatha?

What about more exercise then.

vintage_exercise_equipment_10

I know.  Our dear friend Gussie Twot-Wickham has just started doing that Park Run.  She walks it of course, running is so undignified when you have a large frontage like mine, but she is certainly looking trimmer.

Well,  I think that is a splendid idea.  And all our friends can join in too.

By jingo, how delightful!  Can you imagine darling Miriam Shufflepuff joining in?

Oh Agatha dear, don’t make me laugh when I’m just about to swallow some delicious Assam….She would have to take two strides for our one, but I’m not sure it’s really her thing, you know.  She’s more of a talker than a walker.

Well, perhaps we could ask her to gather all our friends and do some organising then.

So, how much does one have to pay to join in with a Park Run?

Gussie tells me that it’s free, dear heart.

Well, how is that possible?  What about the organisers and people who are helping out on the day?

They are all volunteers.  So every Saturday a huge number of people give up their lie-ins to stand in a chilly open space to help.  It’s quite amazing when you think about it.

Indeed it is Mary.  It quite gladdens the heart to know that there are still people out there who will help others, complete strangers, for the common good.  Do you think if we went back to Egypt we could participate there?  I was thinking of going to see Binkie again, just to see him one very last time (wiping away a tear)

Agatha dear, I think anything is possible.

parkrun

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/

I completely agree Mary dear.  

And just imagine all that lovely fresh air, striding out in our local park surrounded by like minded fitness enthusiasts.  It sounds terribly invigorating.  Perhaps I should ask The Count to join us.  He would benefit from some fresh air, it might help him out of his fug of frustration.

Good idea Mary.  Now, let me call Ethel.  She has prepared a delicious chocolate cake for us today.  All that talk about exercise has quite piqued my appetite.

BBC Food Website (19th March 2012)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chocolate_cake_48307

Rhyming with Wine

Agatha and Mary’s Grand Day Out

vintage-travel-friends

Oh Mary dear, do come in.  I was just thinking about our wonderful day out at the fabulous V&A Museum.

Yes dear one, it was rather splendid and that carrot cake was heavenly.  There was so much to see, that my head is still spinning with it all.  And of course, one can’t forget the train journey – no delays, plenty of seats and on time!  Miraculous my dear.

Indeed so dear, here have a cup of Assam to soothe yourself.  Ethel has made some wonderful little macarons for us – the raspberry and vanilla are just quite delicious.

Oh thank you Agatha.  The “Undressed” exhibition is quite a revelation. You know I did find it quite fascinating to see Fanny Harvey Fleetwood Raper’s corset on display.    I seem to remember dear Mama talking about Fanny in very hushed tones.  

Ah, Mary dear, yes and I don’t believe it was for her absolutely tiny waist.  In those days 18 inches was quite normal.  That corset would barely fit around my arm, let alone my waist.  And the whalebone and steel reinforcements!  It makes me wince to remember how constricting they were.  And how was it even possible to breathe?

CIS:T.90-1984;CIS:T.90A-1984

Well, as we know, sometimes women did pass out.  And they suffered spinal deformities in pursuit of the perfect shape. But I do remember Mother getting quite agitated over the new softer elastic corsets.  She always used to say that going out without proper reinforcement  was like two pigs fighting in a blanket!

Mary dear, I think it’s quite dependent on the size of one’s endowment – As you well know we’ve had some near misses with you, particularly when you have unleashed your upper regions during our belly dancing events.   I personally couldn’t imagine what would happen if we didn’t have some sort of device to ‘divide and conquer’ so to speak.

And of course, as we saw in the Undressed exhibition, female emancipation started to loosen women’s stays and some quite unusual garments were born.

Oh yes, I absolutely loved the Dinner Pyjamas.  The black velvet with embellishments was just divine.  One could totally imagine wearing those of an evening.  With Gin and Tonic and elegant canapes with friends.

Or on one’s tod – with Gin and Tonic in front of the television.

Super darling.  But I was a little perturbed by the fact that this was a one-piece garment. Difficulties arise when one needs to use the bathroom after a couple of gins.

Oh but dear one, don’t you remember, they were open at the crotch?

That sounds rather unpleasant dear.  One can only imagine…..

Quite, dear, one should perhaps gloss over the small details.  However, the attention to detail and the quality of the work at the exhibition was just mesmerising.

Indeed dear – just like the medieval embroidery, although I would have liked to know how the actual garments were constructed after all the work was done.  The weight alone of the gold thread must be quite something and then you have the heavy fabrics they used in those days.  The clergy who wore these lavish garments must have been immensely strong.  Either that or they shrunk an inch at the end of each wearing.

Quite so dear, quite so, but I did like the fact that when they were due to be replaced, they were used as altar covers – quite ingenious and a fantastic way of recycling a garment.

Talking of that dear one, do you like my bag?

Well I must say dear, I do.  Although it’s rather bohemian.   Are you going through a mid-life image crisis dear?

Agatha!  You and I both know that those days are well and truly behind us.  No, I was inspired by a charming cloth bag we saw in the V&A shop and happened to be visiting Fenella Hart-Worthing at her charity shop and found this lovely little mini skirt.  I thought it would make an excellent small bag and decided that I may be able to make some and let Fenella sell them at her charity shop.

suitbag

What a splendid idea Mary.  Your needlepoint is just what it used to be and the colours are quite lovely.  It’s charming.

Thank you Agatha dear.  I am rather pleased with it and of course, the beauty is that it is already lined and has pockets – all I really needed to do was a little bit of re-styling and finding a means of adding a strap.  It’s kept me busy while the Count has been keeping himself in the West Wing on his top secret project.

Ooh, what’s that about dear?

I’m not entirely sure dear one, but it’s something to do with his cousin in America and the new president and his attitude towards women and non-nationals.

Well my dear, I think that will take at least 4 years to resolve.  All we can do as women is stand together and be strong.  And, whilst we’re on the subject I do find it a tad ironic that a film about Jackie Kennedy is just being released.

Yes indeed dear, we will have to see what the new first lady does, but she has a very hard act to follow.

Indeed dear she does, but all of this does rather make one think of the lovely William Golding.

How so Agatha dear?

Well, I know we haven’t seen him here for years, Papa used to be very fond of him you know.

Agatha, really dear – he’s been dead some  13 years!

That would explain why he hasn’t been round for dinner then Mary dear!  What a shame, he was so very forward thinking… his view on women was quite exceptional.

golding

Yes indeed, and wouldn’t the world be a better place if more thought in the same way.

Quite.  Another macaron dear?

recipe-image-legacy-id-660468_11

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1369639/chocolate-and-raspberry-macaroons

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New Year, more cake

newyearcake

 

Mary dear how wonderful to see you looking so full of the festive vigours.  Do come through. Dorothy Lanesborough, Gussie Twot-Wickham and Javala are all in the lounge. We’re just reviewing the success of our belly dancing show at the Bishop’s Palace.

Ooh how delightful, I must say the Count was very impressed with everything.  He has been quite mute with admiration since, keeps asking me to show him some of my moves again.

So you’ve had a quiet Christmas then Mary?

Absolutely!  It’s been heaven (enters the drawing room with Agatha)  Darlings, how wonderful to see you all looking so vibrant.

Let me ring for Ethel and get us some more tea and some of that delicious mincemeat crumble cake that she’s been making for us.

Mary dear, how lovely to see you!   Have you quite recovered from your belly button jewel flying off and hitting the Bishop on the head?  I do believe he came over quite peculiar, but was soon brought round by some of Snetter’s special mulled wine.  

Oh Dorothy, yes it was a slightly un-nerving but I just didn’t want to upset the routine; particularly after Agatha had stunned so many of the audience with her amazing travelling hip swivels and alarming back bends.  

bellydancebend

Yes , I noticed the concentration on your face, Agatha.  I also noticed that most of the gentlemen were not actually looking at your face, they seemed to find you quite distracting!

Really, at my age.  What a load of tosh, Gussie!  

But, my dears, it was a truly magnificent evening and I can’t thank you enough.  If the figures are to be believed we have raised an astonishing sum for Refuge and we still have some of the auction money to count too.

Fabulous news Gussie.  With the added benefit that one found the whole experience of twirling semi naked in public totally liberating.  I, for one, feel we should all continue into the new year.

(there are cheers all round, and Ethel brings in more tea and cake.)

You know ladies, I do feel that the most invigorating thing about our belly dancing is the way it has changed my view of our bodies.

How so Agatha dear?

Well, I was reading this month’s Vogue and there is a refreshingly honest article about Ashley Graham who is on the cover.  

But, darling what on earth has this Ashley Graham got to do with us and our bodies?  She is young and beautiful.

Mary dear, I quite agree but Ashley Graham is a ‘Plus-size model on a mission to reshape fashion’ and wants us all to embrace our shape, whatever it is, and love ourselves.  There is a wonderful TEDX talk that covers all aspects of her size and how women are unable to say that they love themselves.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAgawjzimjc

Oh yes, Agatha, I did read about this.  She really is quite inspiring and says that she looked up to her Mother who told her that she should love herself from within.  Apparently her mother would say ‘If you call yourself fat, you’re going to be fat, if you say you’re stupid, you’re going to be stupid’.  

By jove Mary she sounds an entirely inspirational woman and hasn’t fallen into the trap that of trying to perpetuate the media’s idea of the ideal shape which is, quite frankly, unattainable for many without causing damage to body and mind.

Quite dears, and we should not wait until we have reached our grand old ages to finally accept ourselves for who we are.  It’s terrible to think that young women and girls today wish they looked like someone else.  How many of us have looked back at photographs of ourselves in our teens and twenties and wondered how we ever thought we were unattractive or the wrong shape back then?

Oh yes Agatha, it’s such a waste of youth.  And as the wonderful late Carrie Fisher said

“We treat beauty like an accomplishment, and that is insane. Everyone in L.A. says, ‘Oh, you look good,’ and you listen for them to say you’ve lost weight. It’s never ‘How are you?’ or ‘You seem happy!'”

carrie-fisher-princess-leia-iii-by-dave-daring

So in her memory, let’s have another slice of cake and keep dancing!

Absolutely darlings!

mincemeatcake

http://www.waitrose.com/home/recipes/recipe_directory/m/mincemeat_crumble_cake.html

 

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Tinsel, Baubles and Bling

squirrell

There’s simply no point in resisting, Agatha darling.  The time has arrived and we must embrace the whole blasted fandago.

What on earth are you talking about Mary dear?  Have you been listening to Bohemian Rhapsody again?

No dear one.  Although I am partial to a spot of Freddie Mercury from time to time.  No I am talking about Christmas of course.  Have you put up your tree yet?

No Mary, not yet.  Snetter has been having a bit of trouble with the Pinetum this year.  He has struggled to find the right tree as we have had some squirrel damage.

Oh I say!  Nasty little critters aren’t they.

Yes, and in fact poor Snetter was bombarded with pine cones just last week.  I had to bandage his head as he took a glancing blow from a particularly large and spiky one. He swore blind that the creatures were ganging up on him.

Well, I have always said:  ‘tis better to purchase a tree from ye garden centre than suffer the slings and arrows of outraged squirrels.

You may have said that, but only after several glasses of mulled wine and one too many mince pies dear.

Anyway.  Why don’t I take you down to look at the selection they have this year.  That way you don’t have to ask poor old Snetter to do battle with the furry army.  We can travel down in the Land Rover, plenty of room in the back for an eight footer.  Would that be large enough for your needs dear?

Well Mary, we do normally go for twelve feet.  I prefer a large bushy one in my hallway, and I do like to toss my tinsel about with gay abandon, as you know dear.  Also I do have the entire cast of the Nutcracker Suite moulded into decorations from alabaster which does take up quite a large portion of the tree. Still, perhaps one should be frugal this year.  By the way, are you able to drive the old Landy?  I thought you came a cropper last time when you tried to do a three point turn at the Huffington-Smyth’s luncheon event in Pall Mall?

Oh, that’s all forgotten.  The nice policeman was very forgiving after I offered to buy him a new pair of boots and pay for his surgery.  No, I am perfectly confident we can get there and back in one piece.

drinkinginfurs

By the way, Mary, that reminds me.  Are we inviting the Huffington-Smyths to our Christmas charity event at the Bishop’s palace?  I’m not sure Crispin would be quite strong enough to witness our belly dancing, he has a weak heart as you know.

Good point Agatha.  The other difficulty might be that his wife, Lucille, never got over the comments that Gussie Twot-Wickham made about her cockerpoo.  And Gussie is a major contributor to the event so it might be wise to leave them off the guest list.

Quite – one wouldn’t want to upset Gussie.  She is a force to be reckoned with, but we need her list of contacts in order to raise lots of lovely money for our charities.

Yes, I do admire the old bean in fact.  Gussie is pushing ninety and still works full time.  She makes such a contribution to her local community and one does feel, from time to time, that us oldies get overlooked, pushed aside and made invisible by society who seem to value youth over experience.  

Yes indeed, Mary dear.  We both know how it feels to be made to feel worthless once one is over a certain age.  Is it something to do with our grey hair, do you think?

Possibly, I imagine that once one starts fossilising, letting one’s hair reach it’s full silver potential, then the younger generation thinks one has lost one’s marbles and they simply don’t know what to say.

Which is patently ridiculous of course.  We both still have a full set of marbles despite our advancing age and creaking backs.  I mean, how could we possibly remember all that shimmying and hip thrusting at our belly dancing classes if we had gone gaga?

Quite!  Although, I do have my moments.  Only this morning I discovered I had put the Wedgwood in the washing machine and tried to wash my smalls in the dishwasher!

Easy mistake to make Mary.  Did the Wedgwood survive?

Happily yes dear.  I also forgot to switch on the machine, so all is well.  The Count was a little surprised when I got the tea cups out this morning and his underpants were lodged in one of them.  Still, he thought it was my eccentric English ways, rather than a senior moment.

We need to keep reminding people that we are alive and kicking and making a contribution.

And, remember the charity work we do, and many of our age group keep the charity shops going around the country, volunteering their time.  We should raise a glass to them, tell them that they are not invisible, that we need them still.

Oh yes, I agree.  Time for a small sherry and a mince pie dear?

Lovely.  So have you been practicing your hip thrusts and shimmys Agatha?

Only in the bathroom dear.  I don’t want to alarm the servants.  And you?

Yes, infact I do them in front of the Count.  It makes him quite unaccountably happy.

Mince Pie recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1813664/mince-pies

mincepie

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Hope and horses

gorilla

Mary my dear, how lovely to see you, and goodness you do look flushed.  Has the Count been making advances or are you just a bit wind beaten?

Agatha my dear, I am simply recovering from the onslaught of the Count’s relatives.  They  have finally left and I have been able to wander about in my own home without being accosted by Uncle Rasputin in the corridors. I had to wear my Barbour and Wellingtons indoors so I could make a hasty escape into the garden.   I spent a lot of time out in the grounds, hiding.  The elements certainly don’t help one’s complexion.  I feel as though I need a holiday to rejuvenate myself.

Why don’t you try one of these Mary,  Ethel has made some delightful little Financiers.

Do you mean tiny models of our lovely friend Derek who works in the City?

No dear.  They are French almond cakes.

How fabulous darling.  Yummy!

But I do agree with you about holidays dear.  It feels that Egypt and all the joys, and camels, were several years ago.   Now, do come into the drawing room, I ran into the lovely Dorothy Lanesborough last week and thought that we hadn’t had a good catch up with her for some time.  She’s quite an inspiration you know.

Goodness me, I haven’t seen Dorothy for over twenty years; she was quite the gal about town if I remember correctly.  Didn’t she go off to canoe down the Amazon for charity?  The last I’d heard she’d married the head of some remote Amazonian tribe.  Golly, it certainly will be good to catch up with her.

_47339956_kayak512

Yes, she was telling me all about them.  They are  the Nukak.  A terrifically ingenious but terribly endangered tribe.  I believe Dorothy has been helping to raise awareness of their plight at the hands of developers and drug lords

http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/nukak

Tell me Agatha (as they walk down the hall towards the Drawing Room), is Dorothy quite changed?

Oh Mary dear, if you mean has she gone native, no she’s perfectly well dressed, in a manly fashion, but she is less pale than she used to be, and her hair has gone quite blonde from the Amazonian sunshine!  In fact, despite her advancing years (sighs) she looks quite lovely.

Oh how absolutely ripping, I can’t wait to hear about some of her experiences.

(They both enter the drawing room to find Dorothy sitting perfectly on the chaise longue, the light silhouetting her form and making her hair glow).

Dorothy darling, how lovely to see you after all this time.

Blazes!  Mary you look perfectly spiffing.  Can’t remember how many millennia it’s been since I saw you.  Goodness, you do look positively blooming!

Err, thank you dear.  You look quite transformed.  Tell me, how was the Amazon?

Well my dear old gal, it’s just as you’d expect really – hot, humid, full of creatures of all sorts.  Life with the husband was lovely for a while, even though there was little we had in common and communication was extremely hard –  I did become quite adept with a bow and arrow, and making my own clothing.  I have brought back a suitcase full of interesting garments to see if I can raise some money.

More tea and another Financier Dorothy?

Coffee please, if you wouldn’t mind Agatha.  I’ve got so used to living without tea that I really don’t think I’ll ever go back – the bush tea that we had was positively dreadful – bark and a few dried leaves from some tree or other.  But the overall effect of eating fresh and natural foods has made a real difference to my health dear one!

I must say Dorothy, you are looking splendid.  In fact you haven’t aged a jot in the last twenty two years. Here you are (as Agatha passes her coffee and cake).  Now tell us, what you are up to at the moment?

Well, I was up in Wetherby the other day at the races and had a flutter on a filly called Actinpieces.  Blow me down she came in first!  But what’s more interesting is that she will not allow a male jockey to ride her.  She bites them sharply on the bottom if they try to mount her.

mred

Much like you with the Count, Mary dear.

Anyway.  This plucky mare got me thinking about setting up a stables that is purely for women – give the men a run for their money what?

Well Dorothy, that certainly sounds a marvellous idea.  After all darling Liz Taylor rode in the Grand National!

Agatha dear, that wasn’t real – it was a film with her and Mickey Rooney!

Balderdash!  So Dorothy dear, would you be donning your jodhpurs for this venture?  I can imagine you tearing down the gallops in gay abandon.

Quite possibly Agatha.  But actually,  my real reason for seeking a business opportunity is to support the Lullaby charity after my tragedy in the Amazon.

(Mary and Agatha sip their tea in silence, not sure what to say for once).

Dear husband and I were so delighted when our little girl arrived, she would be twenty today in fact.  But we were so cut-off from the latest thinking about how to best care for babies.   (Pauses)  Well, all I can say is I wish I’d been here to read about the wonderful work that lovely Anne Diamond did following the loss of her son twenty five years ago.  It may have saved  husband and I a great deal of pain.

(Together)  Dorothy dear, how dreadful for you.  I certainly remember the campaign and how simply putting children on their backs has saved so many from cot death.  It’s such a horrible way to lose a child, feeling that you should have been able to do something or done something differently.

Indeed my dears, but Anne was, and is, such an inspiration – turning all that anger and sorrow about her son’s death into such a positive cause, I wish I’d been able to do the same; but what can you do when you’re thousands of miles from civilisation and without a paddle!

Dorothy dear, you’re incredibly brave about it all.

Oh not really dear.  It’s just that stiff upper lip stuff that Pa drummed into me – I’ve got quite used to hiding the pain after all these years.  Can’t torture myself with going there any more, but it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten, (pauses)  But I do hope that when I pass, I’ll see my beautiful daughter again; I’m hoping she’s waiting for me, ready to show me the way.

(All three sit in silence, in tribute to all those lost)

Mary dear, wouldn’t we be able to add her charity to the Bishop’s Christmas Show fund?  We could do two sessions of belly dancing – one to support Refuge

http://www.refuge.org.uk/

and one for Lullaby

https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/ 

What’s that old fruit?  You both do belly dancing?

Well, Mary is slightly better at it than me – she has much more of a rhythmic control of her bosom; but I’m not too bad when it comes to the leg department.

Is this something you’d consider Dorothy?

By Jove, ab-so-lute-ly my dear ladies!  One is always keen to try out new things you know! Maybe it’ll help tone up the old lower regions so I can get into some decent jodhpurs!

Oh how marvellous, you can join Agatha and me next week.  I believe Javala will be quite open to having a new victim, err, participant.

That’s completely spiffing dear ones.  Now, did I tell you about the time I discovered the joy of topless weaving…..?

financier

recipe:

How to make French financiers

3 Little Buttons
Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Dare to….be yourself

billiards

Agatha darling do come in – The Count is playing billiards and the clattering of his balls is positively deafening in the downstairs parlour, so I thought we’d go through to the conservatory, and enjoy my orchids.   Cook is practising her Linzertorte in advance of  a small invasion of The Count’s cousins from Austria next week.

Are these the cousins who you suspect may have (whispers) “Nazi” leanings Mary dear?

Not any more Agatha.  There was a time when their greeting caused alarm, the slight raising of the arm and clicking of the heels, but it seems that they were simply enjoying a joke at my expense!  Of course, now my Italian is coming along, I can understand The Count’s explanation for their unusual behaviour.

That’s a relief dear one!  And how lovely your orchids do look, particularly the Dracula Vampira – it always gives me a thrill.

Thank you dear.  It is rather striking and disturbing, I agree.  Now,  do tell me what you’ve been up to.  

I bumped into that lovely Miriam Shufflepuff the other day.  I’m glad to say that she still says exactly what’s on her mind, it takes a lot of courage to be oneself, and she is the most courageous woman I know.  It appears she was rather down in the dumps at not being invited to the Evangeline Hesketh’s Halloween party, but then to cap it all she didn’t get an invitation to The Club for Bonfire Night either.  She said she was rather cross, as you and The Count had had lots of fireworks on Saturday and being of very small stature she hadn’t been able to see anything over the window ledge!

margolyes

Well Agatha, it was all very last minute.  As you know The Count can be quite explosive himself at times and a feeling of ‘joie de vivre’ really came over him.  I tell you, I felt quite eighteen again, but I digress. So, Algie purchased some lovely fireworks for us and arranged it all.  We had burgers on the back lawn – handmade by Martha of course, none of your pre-made patties.  Of course I would have invited you my dear, but I knew that you were already previously engaged.  

It all sounds thoroughly modern dear Mary, I mean, burgers for goodness’ sake!  Last year you had stuffed quail and pheasant en-croute I seem to remember.  This must be the influence of your boys I shouldn’t wonder.

Oh no dear, it was all my idea.  I don’t want to fossilise.  But I am sorry not to think of darling Miriam.  However as you know my bosom does preclude me from noticing anything below waist level, so even if she was invited, I may have tripped over her in the dark.

Well, I think that we should definitely invite her to our charity fundraising with belly dancing later in the year – she’s always up for a laugh, and she may even join in.  Imagine the scene.  (Both fall silent for a moment.)

What a fantastic idea dear one.  (Cries from the billiard room are heard).  

My goodness Mary!  Do you think the Count is alright?  Should we send for Angus to go and check on him?

I should imagine he’s just sent a ball through a window dear, I took the precaution of removing Great Aunt Maud’s stuffed Iguana before he started playing.  I’m sure if he had had an accident with a mis-timed cue we would soon find out about it.  Now, have another coffee; this Linzertorte is quite exceptional.  I believe the jam was from the raspberries in the kitchen garden.

Yes it really is delicious, the jam goes so well with the hazelnut pastry and the coffee.  I really must ask cook for the recipe so that Ethel can master it too.  You know it quite reminds me of when Dear Mama asked all those lovely politicians for recipes so she could put a book together and raise funds for the local Children’s home.

My goodness, I do remember that.  We had quite some fun putting together and testing all those recipes.  

Am I right in remembering Mary dear that the late Margaret Thatcher made a contribution?

Indeed, your memory is astonishing Agatha!  Yes, Papa had it framed in his drawing room.  I believe he had quite the crush on her, but that of course was in younger days before she was our PM.

Really?  How amusing.  I  particularly loved those interviews conducted by the late lamented Jimmy Young.   As an interviewer he certainly had a charming approach, and many criticised him for being too soft.  But in reality he was an under-rated broadcasting pioneer.  His softly softly approach got so much more out of his interviewees and I believe Maggie was quite smitten with him.

I agree dear one.  Yes, so sad that he’s gone; but his methods were so those of a true gentleman.  That style seems rather out of favour nowadays, of course.  It’s all, what do they say? “wham bam thank you maam”.  But it all ends up rather shouty with no real revelations.

Quite, one does not find this rather brutal approach very attractive.  I remember there were several occasions when I was Head of Jam at the WI, and we had to raise funds from Corporate Clients.  My negotiating style was criticised, and I was told in no uncertain terms to ‘man-up’. Well, save wearing a false moustache and a banana in my trouser pocket,  I really wasn’t that sure how to do that.

womandressedasman

And why would you want to anyway, Agatha dear?

Indeed, my dear.  And Jimmy Young was told the same – that his approach wouldn’t work; that the interviews would not have any substance; but how wrong the world was.  Of course tastes change and now that we have Mr Trump as President elect I think we will see more of it.

I believe so, and I appreciate that things much change. But was it not Kurt Cobain who said:    Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

So, we should be true to ourselves and success will follow?

Spot on!

And this Linzertorte is certainly spot on Mary dear.  Could I have another slice, while I top up our coffee?

With pleasure dear heart.  We can work it off with our belly dancing lesson this afternoon. Did you remember to bring your tassels?

In my valise, dear.   

linzertorte.jpg

http://www.austria.info/uk/things-to-do/food-and-drink/favourite-austrian-recipes/linzer-torte

 

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Mudpie Fridays