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.


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.


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?


Green Balls and Glitter


By Jove Agatha!  I must confess that was a surprise last week!

What on earth are you talking about Mary?  Has Mabel been spiking your tea again?

No, no dear.  Do calm yourself.  I was talking about Strictly Come Dancing and that politician chap with his green face and alarming yellow suit.  Did you watch it dear?

Oh, ab-SO-lutely dear heart.  It is quite the required viewing at la residence.  I always make sure Snetter brings me a large G&T and a plate of Cheese Straws before I settle down, but I must admit I get so excited that those little pastry flakes do find their way into the most unusual of places!

That sounds rather itchy dear.  I do hope that Ed Balls continues to do well, he really has thrown himself into the whole thing which is just so admirable; but of course there are some lovely dancers this season.

Indeed there are – it’s such a shame that ballroom isn’t taught in schools more.  Do you remember having to practice our Flying Skips together at class with Miss Trutchington?  


Indeed I do Agatha.  In fact, I am certain that the late, great Morecambe and Wise must have copied our moves for their end of show dance.

You are spot on Mary!  Although I would like to think that our rendition was a little more… feminine…. should we say!

Of course it was dear,  and everything was fine until those young chaps from Broadwick Grammar came to dance with us, but I do seem to remember a couple of them rather liked the fact that you were always taking the lead!

My goodness Mary, your memory is quite rapier sharp today.  But you’ve reminded me of that lovely man in America, Pierre Dulaine, who believed that dance could help the underperformers and trouble makers and enhance a child’s education and life.

Oh yes, I do remember something about him.  Didn’t they make a film about him?

Yes, indeed they did dear one.  It starred that delicious Antonio Banderas (sighs) and I believe it was called ‘Take the Lead’.  But, all this dancing is so romantic and stylish it does make me think of happier days when there was someone to share the excitement with.


Indeed Agatha dear, and I believe we need to find you an exciting man for the upcoming party season,  it simply won’t be the same without one.

Yes (looks wistfully at her cup of tea) I do miss old Binky.  I still feel a tad guilty about leaving him to rot in that Egyptian jail.  Maybe I could drop the charges and have him return to Blighty.

You are a soft touch Agatha.  I think you should leave him to his own devices, he needs to be taught a lesson, that you are not a woman to be trifled with.  And we need to “hook you up” as the young ones say, with a suitable gent.  In fact, you might meet someone if you join me at the party next week.

What party is that dear?  I don’t believe I have received any invitations for the forthcoming weekend.

Oh, well those charming people, the Jutting-Heskeths, have invited the Count and I to a ‘Strictly’ Halloween party.  I am determined to go, but sadly the Count will be entertaining Great Aunt Madrigal on her annual visit from Florence.  So you could be my “plus one”!  Apparently it’s going to be glitter and ghouls!  Their parties are quite the talk of society and invitations are only to a very select few.  I need to decide on my costume, of course.  

I don’t believe I do know them, dear, but it’s a thought.   Could we perhaps wear our belly dancing outfits?

Oh Agatha dear, that would certainly put the frighteners up them, and may scupper one’s chances of any more invitations.  I think I should go well covered, the less flesh on show the better in my view.  No, I was thinking more of Madame Arcarti – you know, the Medium from Blithe Spirit.


That would be too perfect, my dear.  And so elegant.  I can imagine you floating serenely through vaulted rooms wafting incense and predicting futures. And maybe I could dress up as the Spirit – paint my face green.  Perhaps I might attract the attentions of a charming politician if I am channelling Ed Balls?

Oh my goodness dear, I would advise caution.  After all, our old pal Gussie Twot-Wickham was involved with that MP for a while.  I believe he was mostly made of wood – right down to his handlebar moustache.  She used to complain it gave her splinters!  Still he was rather dashing and good at parties and the like.  Always had a ready anecdote with which to thrill the assembled company.  

Wasn’t he the one who was chums with that orange man with the strange hair in America. You know the one?  He keeps bothering women.

Trump dear?

No, not me dear.  I do believe it was the dog.

Oh no Agatha silly, I mean Donald Trump who’s running for President.

My goodness (fanning herself quickly) don’t mention his name!  Just the thought of him makes my head spin and my heart sink.  My equilibrium has been quite all over the place at the thought of him becoming President – I mean, can you imagine what the first lady would be like…. goodness, I believe the whole world would go backwards……women would be quite subjugated…..and then there’s the wall…. Oh I feel quite faint (swoons)

Agatha dear, pull yourself together and have some more Apple Tart!

Thank you Mary, (munching daintily) yes that does pep me up.  Maybe an MP is not such a good idea then?

I think not dear, but perhaps a spot of speed dating would give you a lift?

But Mary dear, you do talk nonsense!  You know that, at my age, nothing is ever done at speed! Which reminds me, isn’t that Lesley Joseph amazing – a true example to all of us who are trying to mature with grace and vigour.

Oh absolutely dear.  Who knows, after we’ve mastered belly dancing we could perhaps take up the Charleston?

Now, there is something to look forward to.  Would you like another slice of apple tart ?

Do you need ask?  This really is glorious – so seasonal, and the pastry is as light as a feather!


3 Little Buttons

My Random Musings

Don’t let the bad stuff knock you down!

women-boxingMary dear, so lovely of you to have me over for a spot of tiffin.

It’s a delight Agatha – do come in, Martha has excelled herself today, it quite takes me back to when we were in India.

Well dear, we certainly have the weather for it.

Absolutely!  I’ve been quite in a flush all week.

At least the morning room is cooler, but I do miss my darling little punkawallah, Rajiv.  He was so discreet too.

Yes dear, but he was deaf!  And anyway, Agatha you know I never did take to that whole servant business, much too colonial imperialism for me.  I just got the Count to hose me down occasionally.

Yes, I remember you used to dry off nicely in the sun afterwards, went a bit crispy a few times though, didn’t you dear!   Anyway, Mary dear, you seem to be in a bit of a fluster, it can’t just be the heat.  So what exactly is it that you are finding so irksome?

Well, I was talking to that lovely Mrs Margaret Mounthill the other day and she got me thinking about why the bad stuff is always easier to believe?

Oh darling Margaret, I’ve not seen her since that dreadful attack of gout she had, if she’s back in society again I’ll give her a call.

Agatha, you’re missing the point.

Sorry dear, yes the bad stuff is always easier to believe.  Why do you think that is Mary?

I’m not really sure dear.  But I was thinking back to younger days and I suppose some of it is linked to one’s confidence levels but I think it is really what psychologists call ‘negative bias’.

Blog on negative bias:

Mary dear, do you think it could be that the negative stuff is hurtful and that we suffer because of it and therefore remember it more because of that injury?

You could be right Agatha, more dahl dear?

Ooh yes please dear, this is quite delicious.  Do tell Martha how wonderful it is.

Of course dear.  But I believe you may have a vague notion about all this negative bias.  I certainly remember when that nasty Albert Cummings told you you’d never work as a model due to your rather large thighs.

Goodness me, Albert Cummings!  Yes, quite a nasty little boy!   I believe he came to a sticky end down a sleazy alleyway.  I do remember it really having a negative impact on me.  All my other chums’ positive comments about my long blonde hair, tiny waist and passionate piano playing just got forgotten, buried underneath one nasty comment. Do you think that women are more prone to this negative bias that men dear?

Well that is a very interesting question Agatha dear.  But I do think it is a human frailty.

Indeed dear, but do you think it’s something to do with how we filter information?  Because, as you say, we can be told heaps of good stuff about ourselves, and the one little criticism is the thing we focus in on and remember.  


Article on negative bias:

Yes, and that reminds me of a time when I’d worked really hard on a school project and I showed Pops who loved it, told me how clever I was, and then he pointed out a small bit of paint that was smudged, so I just dismissed the whole thing as a pathetic attempt.  I cried for weeks and didn’t enter it into the science show as I thought it was no good.  Do you remember?

I do indeed dear, it was only when I came round, found it stuffed under your bed with some rather suspect looking jodhpurs, and convinced you that it was super, that you decided to bring it into school after all.

Oh Agatha dear, you are a marvel sometimes!

What’s that dear?  It was young Johnny who used to read the comics, not me.

Ah, Johnny, dear Johnny.  How is your brother?  Is he still on the stage?

Just rehearsing for Widow Twanky – such a comedown from the Old Vic.  Actually that reminds me of something the lovely Meera Syal said about bad reviews  “you will remember those sentences verbatim for the rest of your career. Strange how you never memorise the good ones.”

And actors have to endure very public criticism, don’t they dear.   I suppose it must make you thick skinned.

Indeed Mary, although apparently that delicious actor Peter Egan – remember him from Downton Abbey? – anyway he hasn’t read a single review since 1990!

I suppose avoiding criticism completely would be hard in daily life though.

Well, it would be difficult.  But I am told that we can cope with negative comments much better if they are balanced out by small but frequent compliments.  

So, we need to tell our friends and loved ones about their wonderfulness regularly.  Is it that simple Agatha?

It’s worth a try dear.  Could I have another Naan bread dear?  They really are quite delicious.

Of course Agatha, but it’s not going to help your thighs now is it!

Hardly dear, I’ve learned to love them over the years though!  Maybe in our dotage we simply don’t care what people think any more?

Well, there has got to be something positive to counteract the gammy knees and forgetfulness dear one.

Oh, we don’t do too badly, Mary dear.  Don’t forget we are going to that Sonic Blessing workshop on Sunday – remember the leggings and yoga mat.

Oh yes, I had forgotten Agatha.  Perhaps some eastern therapy will do us both a bit of good.  

Yes, and I will remember to wear a long t-shirt this time, and take my place at the back of the room.  

Bottoms up dear!

Oh.  Yes, quite – chin chin.  I thought for a moment you were referring to that rather unflattering yoga pose I got stuck in last time!  Could you freshen my cup dear?

Nothing like a lovely hot tea to cool you down.

Naan bread recipe:


My Random Musings
My Random Musings



Mary dear, lovely to see you – cook’s in a bit of a tiz this week as I asked her to prepare an apple pie for us.  She called me a BDW!   Now just what do you think that means?  Is it a car darling?  I don’t think I’ve ever been compared to a car before….

Oh Agatha dear, do sit down you are getting quite unnecessary.  I believe a BDW is one of those Bloody Difficult Women that have been in the press this week.

Have they dear?

Oh yes, Ken Clarke put his foot in it again…

Seems to me he’s constantly walking in it dear, but let’s move on shall we?

Not until he’s wiped if off his shoe, dear one.  We don’t want it through the house!

Quite Mary!  Anyway, he’s said that Theresa May is a BDW which seems a good thing.

Does it dear?  I know I can also be difficult, particularly with the servants, but one has to if one is going to run a tight ship.

Absolutely!  I don’t think Ken was being derogatory, just stating that there is a type of woman who gets things done come hell or high water.

A bit like the unsinkable Molly Brown then dear?

Oh my goodness yes.  And do you remember my Aunt Fenella?  When she was being interviewed by the local rag about what she attributed her long life to, said “Well getting off the Titanic helped!”  Bravo for her I say and yes, she was a BMW.

No dear, not BMW, a BDW!  Anyway I do think the world needs them – my sister is one you know?

Oh goodness yes, Celophina’s certainly one – always coming round and whizzing about tidying the whole place for you and telling you to get your life in order and by the time she leaves 15 minutes later, it is.  And that time she supposedly “rescued” that swan.  I’m sure she only did that so she could claim compensation from Her Majesty!

Bless her Agatha, yes!  It’s infuriating really as we can never find anything after one of her tidying episodes.  She always winds up putting everything in the oddest places.  I remember I found our guest, Dr Fitzwilliam, stuffed in the broom cupboard once.  We thought he’s gone home, but Celophina had tidied him away as she thought he was the children’s old mannequins – you know ‘penny for the guy’ type of thing!  Poor man he was quite discombobulated; turned out he’d been there for 5 days!

My word!  Wasn’t he the chap who knew Mary Seacole?

I do believe you’re right dear.  How apposite.

What’s that Mary dear?  More apple pie?

Oh yes please Agatha. But I do believe that a new statue of Mary Seacole has just been unveiled at Guys/St Thomas’s Hospital.  Now, she most definitely was a BDW.


Quite dear.  Wonderful woman.  She was one of our greatest unsung heroes.  A black homeopathic nurse who took herself off to the front line during the Crimean War and just got on with the business of saving lives.  She was quite a star at the time – I seem to remember that she had tea with Great Aunt Winifred at one time, but I may be wrong.

I do believe you’re right dear, but then it all got horribly political and then the government got involved and changed the curriculum so little Bertie and Algie were taught about Florence Nightingale instead.

Well it seems at last that Mary is taking pride of place and quite right it is too dear and I am totally delighted to see that, finally, we have immortalised the very first black woman in this way here in the UK.

You would certainly need to be a BDW if you’re on the front line dealing with the suffering soldiers on that scale,  Agatha dear.

I do think it’s a tad peculiar though, Mary, that the male version of a BDW would be … well… a man!

Oh not that old chestnut again, dear.  We need to accept that women just have to be stronger, more determined, better jugglers than our male counterparts just to sit at the same table.

Oh but it were different Mary!  I mean, my niece Lucy, she complained just last week of being upbraided by her male boss for not being “assertive” I think was the term he used.  He made it clear that she needed to behave more like her male colleagues to get on.  It was all I could do to stop her ordering some testosterone on the internet and injecting herself!

Now, we wouldn’t want that at all, just imagine the side effects (shudders).  No, I think it’s perfectly possible for gals to be successful just by being themselves.  No need to “man up” as they say.

I agree, dear.  That’s all rather 1980s now anyway. But they need to stand up for themselves more.  Just think dear – Companies are having to publish the gender pay gaps, and there will be no surprises to find out how far behind women are at work on equal pay – still!

Is the gender pay gap like the Cheddar gorge?

No, it’s much larger dear.  Another slice of apple pie?

Oh yes please Mary dear.  But don’t you think that a lot of companies won’t do that, you know small businesses who like to keep women at a certain level because they are only women and they fulfill a traditional role in business?


Oh now don’t get agitated Mary dear, you know it sets you off and really dear I think that’s a topic for another conversation when we have the strength to deal with it.  Sometimes you can be quite exhausting!

Well Agatha, I must admit I am quite fatigued.  The dear Count had me up till the wee hours with his snoring.

But Mary dear, how many times have I told you, just move into the room next door.

But Agatha , I moved to the East wing and he still kept me awake!

Have you tried the gardener’s cottage?  I hear he is quite a young lad…

(Blushing) Now now, you know what happened when we had that charismatic Mr Lawrence stay with us….

(Blushing even more) Another cup of tea dear?

Apple pie recipe:

Life Love and Dirty Dishes


GGAuntBarnaby (1)

Well, Agatha, I must say last week’s drinking took a while to recover from!

What do you mean, Mary?  You seemed fine when you left.  The Dundee cake soaked up most of it, surely?

You were passed out on the chaise longue when I left dear – so you can’t possibly remember the state I was in.  It took me fifteen minutes just to put my hat on in the hallway and even then Ethel had to take it off and turn it around!  Honestly darling I thought I was statement dressing, but your servant clearly had another agenda!

Oh, well.  Perhaps we should stick to tea today!  But you do remind me of a time when everyone wore hats, ladies and gents alike and anyone passing the cenotaph would take them off as a mark of respect as they walked passed.  Those were the days when people knew how to dress – we had none of those dreadful American monstrosities – baseball caps!

Quite dear, and don’t know about you but we were fortunate enough to live in a time when anyone who was vaguely ‘eccentric’ I think they used to say, could dress in anything they wanted.  It reminds me of great Aunt Barnie.  She was quite the snappy dapper dresser.

Oh yes, I do remember her.  Wasn’t she the actressy one, who wore velvet jackets and bow ties and no makeup in the 1920’s?  It was quite shocking back then, but there again she had the personality to carry it off.

It was, Agatha, the family didn’t quite understand her I seem to remember.  I loved her, of course.  She didn’t care what anyone else thought.  And she wasn’t the only lady dressing in a masculine fashion.  Do you remember Dorothy Lawrence, she fought as a chap at the Somme.  It was quite scandalous at the time.  She dearly wanted to be a reporter and smuggled herself out to the front line dressed as a Tommy.



I do indeed remember her.  It was a scandal that the whole thing was hushed up.  Apparently she wrote a book about her experiences and the military at the time refused to allow publication, she died in an asylum, poor thing.

Indeed, dear.  She suffered for her gender, we should be celebrating this type of courage, not hushing it up.

Of course there was also James Barry, that successful British Army surgeon who served in India and Cape Town and rose to the rank of Inspector General in charge of military hospitals.  Apparently the only way she (Margaret Ann Bulkley) could get into medical school was to dress as a man.  Tragic really, you know, that you’d have to go to such extremes.  Still, it was only when she died that everyone found out the truth.


Goodness my dear, but what is so shocking is that women still have to disguise themselves as men, Mary.

I know Agatha it is truly dreadful.  Don’t you remember when we tried to out-do Miss Snetter, our dorm mistress, when we borrowed Jack and Algie’s country plus fours and used charcoal to pain moustaches on our faces?

Of good grief Mary – that’s too painful to remember.  The tweed chafed so much I couldn’t sit down for days!  I had to ask Suzie Braithwaite if I could use her cold cream – it’s was all just a bit of a nightmare, but I seem to remember you got off rather lightly as your Pa’pa made a donation to the Cecil Locke Library?

Ah, yes (embarrassed and blushing)…. More tea dear?  And perhaps a slice of Victoria?

It’s no use trying to change the subject Agatha, but since you mentioned it, yes please.  (Pause.)  But truly, don’t you think that it is simply appalling that even in this day and age women feel that they have to take on the identity of a man to earn respect and standing?

I do indeed Mary.  Look at our beloved JK Rowling, writing as a man – Robert Galbraith – to ensure her work was taken seriously.

Yes, and of course the famous and talented Mary Ann Evans who wrote as George Eliot.  Of course back then it was frowned upon for women to write professionally, and just think of the loss to our culture if she had bowed to the pressure and just taken up needlepoint and playing the harpsichord!

Absolutely Mary dear.  Take Marlene Dietrich for example, you couldn’t imagine her sitting at home with needle and thread counting the stitches till she had to go to bed now could you?

No Agatha, indeed not.  Didn’t she cause an outrage when she dressed in a gentlemen’s tuxedo when she played Mademoiselle Amy Jolly in that film ‘Morocco’?


Yes dear.  I don’t know who were more outraged; the men who went to see it or the men who simply heard about it or the men that pretended to be outraged for the sake of being outraged!  As far as I recall I don’t believe any of our female friends were at all phased; we just wanted to know where we could get a tux, but I guess it took Angelina Jolie to really bring it into the modern world.


Quite, Mary dear.  Wasn’t she in Mad Men or am I getting her confused with that lovely girl Christina Hendricks?

Yes Agatha, you are.  But don’t you think that all that dress in the 1950’s was the cause of the female liberation movement of the 60’s?

Oh, without a doubt dear.  That, and the fact that the 50’s saw the birth of the housewife.  All those men back from the war without jobs and therefore nothing to do, just sitting at home going crazy with all sorts of things going on in their heads.  What was the government to do apart from create the role of the housewife which meant that the men could carry on being men and the women, who’d kept the nation functioning during the war could go home and put their feet up and wear impossibly uncomfortable lingerie to boot.

Well Mary, I must say I’ve not seen you so agitated for days.  Have another cup of tea to calm your nerves.  You’ll be getting all unnecessary and the Count just won’t know what to do with you!

Sorry Agatha, but what is it the young people say?  (Pause) Is ‘Pants’ the right expression dear?

Speak for yourself Mary, you know I have trouble in that department due to the size of my thighs!

Sorry Agatha dear.  More cake?


3 Little Buttons
3 Little Buttons