Wednesday, 28 July 2010

To nosh or not to nosh?

One of the blogs I follow had a post about afternoon tea with a very tempting photograph and I felt compelled to comment. Sharing this seemed a good idea as it is probably better to talk about teatime treats rather than eat them at the moment as I have been trying to cut back on noshing prior to holidays.

Way back when I got married we had an afternoon tea dance as our reception bucking the trend for a grand evening "do". It combined my two favourites - afternoon tea and dancing.

My lovely Mother taught me all I know about serving the perfect afternoon tea. Proper china crockery, pastry forks and napkins. Sandwiches made from thin sliced bread with, of course, the crusts cut off. Two [at least] favourite cakes, scones with clotted cream and jam, possible also some baby danish pastries. The tea must be made in a tea pot, milk must be poured into the cups first - it is a real ritual.

I have added my own touches to the sandwiches [fillings of cucumber, egg and smoked salmon] by cutting them into different shapes for each filling - circles, squares, rectangles.

I have initiated my children and grandchildren into the delights of Afternoon Tea. Number 1 Grandson always requests his favourite chocolate cake, Number 2 Grandson consumes an amazing amount of scones, Number 1 Grandaughter is campaigning for ice cream to be added and Number 2 Grandaughter thinks the addition of chocolate Mini Rolls [her very very fav. treat] would make it perfect.

I have to stop now as I am feeling rather hungry.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Working Mums

Friday p.m. welcomed the Daughter and Grandchildren back from their week in Ireland. They stopped here on their way back home from the Airport to be fed and watered and to collect their car which had been left on our forecourt. I was regaled with excited accounts of their first horse riding lessons and my grandaughter's slightly over-dramatic version of her father's fall in the river. A head to toe soaking became a "broken-leg"! Now from his more mature 5 years my Grandson told me that she wasn't even on that walk because it was too difficult for her and she had stayed at the cottage with her Grandpa.

Waved them off with "See you Thursday" - we are taking a day off work to take all four grandchildren out. The elder two are staying with us on Thursday and Friday and they love to get together with their cousins. Not sure what we are going to do yet, it may depend on the weather. A good friend taught us long ago that you should always have a Plan B - Wet weather programme ready.

We have had quite a lazy weekend and although the weather hasn't been quite as settled we have had a chance to sit out and read in the garden.

I watched a TV discussion programme while having breakfast this morning which posed the question of whether Working Mothers are Bad Mothers. They talked with a Headmistress of a Girl's Boarding School who had gone back to work 7 hours after giving birth [obviously no stitches!]. Hers was not a really fair comparison, she lived on site and had the luxury of being able to have her baby with her all the time. But even so, 7 hours??

I believe that there are mothers who don't work and stay at home who aren't necessarily good mothers and equally mothers who work [many because of financial demands] who are great mothers. You just can't make sweeping statements. I know what worked for me. Until both my children were in primary school I didn't go out to work, I did do some project work from home in the evenings to help the family finances and keep my "hand-in" so to speak. I loved being a Mum and in the whole working lifetime/career path is 5 years out so dreadful? I started work again keeping within their school hours slowly increasing to a four day week. I was lucky I had their devoted Grandma living nearby providing great support backup. Later on, after the sadly early death of my lovely Mum, my Dad came to live with us which made it possible for me to work virtually full-time.

I think [but I could be wrong] that, as the children got older, the balance of home and work kept my brain stimulated. I was not excessively houseproud - the place was clean and tidy - I didn't vacuum everyday, ironing was essential items only but kids' friends were always made welcome and offered food [I am after all a Jewish Mother]. I did find trying to keep at least Friday afternoon work free was the key. We always tried to keep Friday night as family night. Everyone at home having a meal together - yes it was Chicken and most importantly Chicken Soup! The Daughter was even inspired to write a poem for her School Magazine on the delights of arriving back from school each Friday and smelling the chicken soup through the letter box.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Old Friends / New Blog

Last night was a rare treat dinner with friends at a lovely restaurant in St John's Wood, nothing much beats good food and good company. The dinner was our belated birthday present to them. A few months ago they threw a 100th Party to celebrate their joint arrival at a half century but, all being busy people, it had taken ages to find a mutually available date. We were practically the last to leave the restaurant we were chatting so much, bringing each other up-to-date on the latest news of their children and our children and grandchildren.

Another early start this morning to meet Clients in Southwark. Decided to use the overground train from my local station and change to the tube at Moorgate. Unfortunately there is no escape from the mobile phone on overground trains. Isn't it strange the way people are prepared to shout into their mobiles revealing all kinds of personal details to a carriage full of complete strangers?

I was without a book or paper to read on my way back to the office and I hate just sitting on a train staring into space so got a notebook out as I thought it would be useful to make some notes on the properties I had just viewed with my clients. Instead I found myself scribbling down a rhyme, must have been triggered by last night's dinner discussions where we touched briefly on the satirical revues we used to write together. After twenty plus years of scriptwriting [poems, sketches, lyrics] I must admit I miss it.

So I have decided to keep another blog for poems - first one on today. If anyone is interested look at

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


I've been working in my office all day today finalising a Report and had the radio on in the background for company. Occasionally one of the programme discussions grabs my attention and today it was all about exam standards. In particular the huge amount of "A" grades achieved at GCSE. I have long been convinced that GCSE passes are far easier than the old "O" levels. My children were just at the end of the "O" level era and I know from the content of the exam papers they worked on compared with the GCSE papers that my nephews and nieces took that they had a much easier time achieving high grades. Recently I have tried to learn Spanish [not wanting to be staying in Spain and expecting everyone to understand English] and I think I am progressing very slowly. Much to my amazement when we were given a GCSE paper just as a class test I passed. I could not believe the simplicity of the questions, I know that there is no way I could possible pass an "O" level in Spanish. Who does this dumbing down benefit? It is like the thinking that everyone should go to University whether they are academically able or not. Uni is not right for everyone and when so many graduates cannot find jobs and the workplace is short of plumbers, electricians etc.[who by the way earn very good money] why do we persist with this policy.

OK - that was a rant, which I suppose now qualifies me as a grumpy old woman!

Monday, 19 July 2010


Last Friday night we returned the invitation to dinner to our friends who had so kindly looked after us after an exhausting day on the office move of one of our clients. This week they had been dismantling an art exhibition and were in need of sustenance.

Saturday was the anniversary of the death of my Mother and as is the Jewish custom I went to Synagogue to say a Memorial Prayer. In the evening I lit a candle which will stay alight for 24 hours. It is a good tradition but I don't need a reminder as I think of her all the time and I know how proud she would be of her grandchildren's successes and how she would have adored the great-grandchildren she never lived to meet. I hope she was watching on Saturday night when we have had a late booking for the spare bedroom from our eldest two grandchildren. They appeared clutching their end of year school reports for us to read. Both sets were absolutely splendid - I wish I had had such good reports when I was at school far too many years ago!

On Sunday we had our first guests of this Summer arriving at our Spanish property "Vista Alegre" - they are staying in the first floor apartment which we call "Almendras" - all OK, our House Manager confirmed they found the property and she has settled them in. The weather in Ibi is fantastic and they should have a great week. To make you all jealous I am attaching some pool pictures.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


After the first flush of enthusiastic writing I am afraid work commitments have taken over and this will be my first post since Monday. A delightful communication from the Inland Revenue arrived reminding me I had to pay my half yearly tax bill by 31 July - always a delightful time of year for the self-employed. A day later a notification from the State Pension that my virtually non-existent pension was rising to 92p. a week [yes ninety-two pence!]. A crazy state of affairs caused by my not working for approximately 5 years when my kids were pre-school and then working part-time while they were in primary education. The "married women's NI stamp" which I was advised to pay has now been totally discredited as it has left many women like me with these ridiculous pension amounts. So no likelihood of retirement even if I wanted to - which incidentally I don't.

My daughter and my two youngest grandchildren paid a fleeting visit this morning to leave their car on our forecourt and be collected from here to go to Stansted Airport en route to a short holiday in Ireland. Mayhem for about half an hour.

I am now personally counting the days until we can leave for our Summer holiday in our place in Spain.

Monday, 12 July 2010


I was too exhausted to write on Friday as we had spent the entire day supervising the removal of the entire contents of an office at the Angel that we are reorganising for clients. Luckily very kind friends had offered us a Friday night meal which we had accepted with alacrity, so all we had to do was get home, shower, change and let someone else feed us a delicious meal in their glorious garden.

Saturday we had been pre-booked by daughter and son-in-law to have our two youngest grandchildren to stay for a "sleepover" so no time to rest there! They are absolutely delicious [yes I am a biased Grandma]and they were both in top form. After a water hose down in the garden the little one was sufficiently exhausted to be ready for an early night and our lad snuggled next to his Papa to watch the football.

Sunday was back to work again at the Angel supervising the installation of the new furniture ready for the clients to return to work on Monday and Tuesday. As you can see just because we are in our sixties now the pace hasn't slowed and honestly I don't think that's a bad thing. The team we had working were all anxious to get back to watch the World Cup Final, as were we, and this was achieved.

Having our second home and many friends in Spain we were not neutral and watched with pride as the Spanish played beautiful football and deservedly, eventually got the winning goal. We will no doubt still find our friends celebrating when we arrive in Spain at the beginning of August. Most of our friends are football mad, particularly our friend and neighbour Pepe who has a full size football pitch on his land with home team and visitor changing rooms and a bar!!!

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Reluctantly, as I am not a morning person, I had arranged to meet a client at Borough Station at 9 am this morning to view three potential offices for his organisation. This trip across town reminded me of the two extremes of living in London. The Northern Line decided to revert to its "Misery" years and cancelled two trains so that the Morden via Bank route I needed to use was at maximum sardine mode. Being barely 5ft.2ins. I suffer from inability to reach the overhead bars to hang on and the delightful view and smell of other travellers armpits. The relief of finally arriving at Borough and emerging into even muggy air was enormous. The tube in any heatwave is revolting. The office viewings did, however, lead to a walk along the river from Tower Bridge passed the very strange London Assembly Building along the bank to London Bridge. It is when I do these walks that I remember how much I love London, I am not anti-modern [Prince Charles style] I love the London Eye and the great architects who designed it Julia and David Barfield were clients of mine several years ago when I found them their offices in South London. The Gherkin has a certain something but I am not sure I am going to love The Shard which is growing apace at London Bridge. Somehow the best of the modern works alongside some of the beautiful landmark buildings which show to their best advantage from a riverside viewpoint.

I am now the proud possessor of a Freedom Pass so the pain of even the worst of journeys [like this morning's Northern Line experience] is allieviated by not having to pay. Except of course having used London Transport solidly throughout my working life and paid the often exhorbitant fares, I reckon I've probably earned it.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Late last night my husband was flicking through the TV channels with the remote [which naturally is his possession and which I am allowed to use only when he is not watching!] and he came across a recording of Tom Jones at Glastonbury [was it last year?]. Anyhow the guy still rocks, with a mainly young crowd singing along with not only his newer numbers but also amazingly knowing all the words of some vintage Jones. It certainly brings back memories especially when he sang "It's not unusual" which I can remember watching him sing on my Parents' black and white TV back in the 60s on 6.5 Special.

Nice to see he can still dance - me too. I do think he looks better now he has given up the very obvious black hair dye and gone with the grey, it suits him. I decided a few years ago that as my hair was determined to go silver that I would stop fighting it, it has saved me a fortune in hairdresser's bills.

It has been quite a nostalgic week all round. My grandaughter carries around a small toy horse which we named "Champion" and forced the poor child to hear us sing "Champion the Wonder Horse". Anyway the other day while staying with her other Grandparents they found on YouTube a clip of the original TV series with Frankie Laine singing and, bless her heart, she accompanied him word for word [not bad for a 2 year old]. She kept running the clip over and over again and we have been told we will have to watch it with her when she and her brother come to sleepover this Saturday. My husband loved the original programme and he started recalling his favourites from that era so no doubt he will be trawling the net for clips of gems such as Rin Tin Tin, The Cisco Kid etc etc - perhaps I'll leave home............................

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Some of you may have seen the pictorial record that was created as a present for our 40th Wedding Anniversay [yes, amazingly some people do stay married that long - I was, of course, a child bride! ]. Although the redesign and restoration of our home in Spain was very much a joint effort the title was too good not to use.

I saw a television programme the other night which demonstrated how often property projects abroad go horribly wrong. To redress the balance I thought I would share some before and after pictures of our project. I think the fact that we used a proper Spanish Estate Agent [not a ex. pat Costa cowboy], made sure the legals were followed to the letter, all the building regulations, and all licenses applied for and received before works began was probably why our project has been a success. So if you are thinking about a project like this in the future - it can be done. Obviously we learnt an awful lot along the way and now have a great crew for any new work we undertake [David - Electrician extraordinaire, Juan-Lu - the rarity a Spanish Builder who always arrives on the day and time he says he will and who is even more of a perfectionist than I am; Rafa - our Plumber who was even prepared to fight the water board to repair a leak that was their responsibility.
It probably helped that Jack and I project manage relocations for companies and charity sector organisations here and have years of experience in space-planning and fit-out works but these television programmes seem to find people who make some very elementary and costly mistakes. Our great friend Lorenzo [who found our property for us] told us that it used to be joked that the when the British came on property buying expeditions they left their brains in the left luggage lockers at Alicante Airport.
Anyhow my lunch break is over so back to work!

Monday, 5 July 2010

JULY 5th 2010

Less than one month to go before I escape to my home in Spain. When we first thought about buying a property abroad it was going to be just for my husband and myself with a couple of rooms for when the kids might come on holiday with us. Somehow we ended up buying a property in conjunction with my husband's brother and his wife and sharing with them the ownership of a 14 acre private estate! It has been a labour of love over the past 5 years to restore the 200 yr old "Masia" and create not only a second family home for our own family, but a home for our co-owners and two huge apartments for holiday lets.

I get seriously relaxed when I am at Vista Alegre except when it is time for the Olive or Almond harvests when I have to turn estate worker and use muscles I had forgotten I had.

This year we will have visitors with us most of the Summer - luckily my husband loves to cook and friends and family seem more than happy to lend a hand.

Meanwhile I have a heavy month of work to get through first before I can board the plane with one of my charity clients having a major re-organisation of their space this weekend which will mean no lie-ins Sat. or Sun.