Toodle Pip!

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Ah, Mary my dear, I’m so delighted you could make it. And I do love your hat. Is it designer?

Oh no Agatha, just something I cobbled together from one of the Count’s straw boaters and some Christmas decorations.

Yes, I can see that now. I was wondering about the tiny Santa perched on top. I thought it was an ironic comment on midsummer.

No dear, I was just having a sort out and thought I could combine an elegant look with a bit of glitter or ‘bling’ as I believe they say now. Still, there is nothing like being individual and going against the flow as dear Olive Croissant would say. Talking of whom, is she still running a home for stray cats dear?

I believe so dear one, but at this time of year one can’t get to her for fluff and it quite sets off my allergies all those cats moulting as they do.

Indeed Agatha. But, as it is the last time I shall be seeing you for a while I did think I’d make the effort.

Well it is heartily appreciated Mary, if somewhat random in style and it has boosted me rather when the sad day of your departure is nearing. One shall miss our tea and cake get togethers, and the shared stories, but in good tradition I shall still sip gin and raise a glass to you, wherever you may be.

How marvellous dear. But I shall be back from my travels in the twitch of a cat’s whisker. And, if it wasn’t for your responsibilities manning the jam stall at the WI summer fete I am in no doubt that you would be joining me in Bangkok.

Quite dear, I’d like to give those Lady Boys a run for their money, although I dear say Jonty would not approve if he were still with us! But what does worry me dear is the thought of that heat and humidity, you know the trouble I had with my thighs in Egypt.

Agatha dear, don’t you think that’s a tad dramatic? You coped perfectly well in the heat and caused quite the sensation when you dived into the Tiber.

As you say dear one, as you say. I’m sure I would acclimatise eventually. But (taking a sip of some strong cordial) I have been quite remiss and have forgotten to tell you that Binky has been released from his incarceration. I’ve been advised that he is taking the scenic route home and has hired one of those Ford vans and is travelling back to Blighty by land.

Goodness dear one, has he had some sort of road to Damascus conversion? I remember him as someone who would only set foot inside a Rolls, nothing else was good enough. And, how the Dickens you hear this?

Well, I don’t know about Damascus my dear but Mimsy Porpington-Smythe was really quite animated about his imminent return and so eager to let me know. I do believe she fears for his safety.

And will you be seeing the old devil Agatha dear? If he calls round?

Heaven forbid! No my dear, my heart is truly mended and I am now a happily confirmed spinster and luckily, in full possession of all my jewels. I wouldn’t want to risk losing them to his sticky fingers again.

But what if he is a reformed character? One never knows what prison can do to change one?

No, that is true. But it seems that Mimsy is rather taken with him and by jingo, she’s welcome to him. My mind is quite resolute, unlike our PM there is no U-Turn for me.

I do so admire your fortitude Agatha. I hope to show the same level of resolve when it comes to resisting some of the temptations afforded to me in Thailand.

Like what dear?

Well, as you know, this is not simply a jolly holiday; there’ll be no lounging around poolside with a Singapore Sling. No, this is about self improvement, opening my eyes to other cultures, embracing the new and all that.

Yes dear, but you really should take some time out you know. I do believe a little of what you fancy keeps you young at heart and ready to face whatever the day affords? After all, you are away for several months. You cannot be networking and improving your ‘downward dog’ postures for all that time?

Agatha dear, don’t fret. I have absolutely every intention of breaking some bad habits, but also to learn some better ones. I hope to become a fully qualified yoga instructor, learn some Thai Chi and perfect some authentic Thai cooking techniques. I have a tutor lined up already you know.

It does sound marvellous but also rather exhausting dear; but one word of advice – please please please ensure you take some solid construction in the bosom department with you. I’d hate for you to have a mishap at a yoga class!

Dear one, I’ve already been to see our dear friend Ethel at Rigby & Peller and they have promised that I can order online and anything I need will be despatched directly.

Very well dear but surely, at your age, you should be putting your feet up and gazing at the sun dipping below the sea over a large cocktail?

That’s what society would have us do dear, but no, I am quite determined on the matter. The Count will be egging me on of course. He has always fancied being married to a yoga teacher. I cannot for the life of me imagine why.

Can’t you dear? All that bending…in leotards.

Piffle. We don’t go in for that type of thing any more.

Maybe that’s why he’s so keen dear.

Really? I’d never thought of myself as a ‘Green Goddess’. But actually dear I am a tad nervous about the plane trip. Being squished together for ten hours with the Count will be challenging. I have my books of course, but he does tend to get a bit restless when we are in close proximity.

Perhaps you will be bumped up into first class dear. Make sure you wear your emeralds and a smart jacket. And ask the Count to don his crested blazer. Then it will be just a formality I’m sure.

Agatha, you are a darling. Of course arriving in style would be just topping, as long as we don’t get too tiddly on the bubbly of course and fall down the steps on arrival, that would just be unbearably inelegant.

I don’t fear that will happen my dear as you both seem to have a remarkable capacity for alcohol that I doubt a few glasses would make very much difference to your sense of balance, even after no sleep. Besides, you could always call for a wheelchair to help you on your way. Now, have you finished packing?

Goodness no! Poor Jenny is quite discombobulated by the entire thing. However, she has managed to lay out my new bathing costume. It does look enormous in the cup but quite nice on and keeps everything where it should be, which is quite simply a relief. And then I have all my linens. They do crease the moment you look at them, but I simply can’t imagine wearing anything else in the heat and humidity. I’ve decided that I will go for the ‘cool and crumpled’ look which I believe was so in a few seasons ago.

Well, the image of you wafting down the beach in Phuket in your normal commanding fashion will keep me going during the depths of our winter.

But what about you, dear one? Have you a trip planned for the summer this year?

Well, actually, yes. I have just booked a little sojourn abroad. There’s this totally charming little company that do spiffing little holidays for us ‘individual’ people – good company, good food and smart accommodation without being a source of pity for the smug married couples.

That sound perfect dear one. Where are you going. Italy? Greece?

Las Vegas actually, I thought I’d try my luck at Caesar’s and have dug out one of Bertie’s old pantomime hats. And, I’m thinking of brushing up on my singing before I go. I know I did always have an exceptional and distinctive voice at school, but I hear there are these er, open mike, sessions which seem to be all the rage. I thought I might do my Shirley Bassey while I’m there.

Goodness Agatha! For once I’m utterly speechless with admiration. You must send me photographs – I can just envisage you on The Strip in your slingbacks and a pink feather boa.

Oh dear, I’ve not worn slingbacks for years darling – I’d probably fall over, but anyway let’s just raise a wee dram to friendship and adventure.

Chin chin dear one. See you on the other side.

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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.

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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?

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

Gallivanting and Golf

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.  

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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!

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

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