Wednesday, 28 March 2012

You Can't Always Get What You Want !

If you have been following my blog............ Oh, heavens, well done you ! You need a medal and a bottle of head-ache pills....... you will probably know that I lived in Guisborough in the 1950s. From the age of 5 to the grand old age of 11, that pretty, rural, North Yorkshire market town was my world. There were many delights in that lovely place, not least the idyllic location, nestled in a valley in the Cleveland Hills.
It was a wonderful town in which to grow and I have very fond memories of my childhood, full of adventure, of picnics and treasure hunts and wandering free through fields and woods with siblings and chums.
However, all the best things in life are not, necessarily, free and sometimes pleasures can be purchased in glittering palaces and come at considerable cost.

Stockelds today.

The glittering palace that held my attention was the local Toy Shop !!  Stokelds was located on Fountain Street and was a stationers and a toy shop, and to me it was heaven !
It had all the usual toys of the era; the Hornby train-sets and Tri-ang toys, bicycles and trucks. The Silver Cross, carriage built, dolls prams; perfect replicas of the 'real' thing.  Jigsaws, their chunky wooden pieces presented in sturdy boxes, with bright scenes on the lid. Dominoes in wooden boxes with sliding lids, just like larger versions of the wooden pencil boxes. Snakes and Ladders and Ludo and Draughts, all together in a Compendium of games........ perfect for Winter nights; TVs were a rarity in the early 1950s !!
Cowboy outfits with furry 'chaps' and Stetsons with braided decoration around the brim. Lone Ranger masks and Indian head-dresses of multi-coloured feathers and 'leather' holsters with silver metal guns. Ah, guns ! There were guns galore !  Sharpshooters and rifles and 'spud' guns. Guns in which one inserted  'caps' and then, when the trigger was pulled, the cap exploded with a bang and a rather satisfying little puff of smoke and the smell of burning.  Bows and arrows and swords and daggers and all  manner of weapons to satisfy even the most blood-thirsty of little boys !  Nothing was deemed 'too dangerous' in those days. " 'Elf 'n Safety" was not yet the bane of everyone's life.
There were catapults of all sizes and glass marbles, shining like jewels in little cotton bags. Skittles and roller skates and jacks. Cricket bats for the Summer, tennis rackets and table tennis balls and bats with a ball attached by an elastic 'string'. This string usually snapped after a few whacks and the ball would go flying off into someone's face and the poor victim would proudly sport a black eye and an air of fake bravado for days.

Then, at the back of the shop, was the section that drew my attention and held the object of my desire. First there were the teddies; proper, firm, solid bears, not the fluffy imposters of today and the golliwogs, which are no longer seen........ thought of as too un-PC, too racist. I barely glanced at them, but walked reverently towards .............. the dolls !!!
Ah, yes ! Baby dolls in romper suits, dolls in frilly dresses with golden ringlets,ragdolls in bright patchwork frocks, with woollen hair under their poke bonnets. Smaller dolls, dressed in pleated skirts and 'sensible' jumpers, tall  'walking ' dolls with long straight legs and a supercilious smile. Dolls whose eyes closed when one laid them on their back, dolls that said,
                                                 " Mama "
when tipped backwards and forwards, black dolls with bandanas round their dark curls. All were wonderful but ................ there 'she' was, on a plinth all on her own !!  The prize, the coveted treasure, the thing I wanted most in the whole world, the doll I christened 'Betsy' ................. for that would be her name when finally she was mine !

She stood, oh I guess, 12-14 ins high and had long black plaits, a rosebud mouth and big blue eyes. She was beautiful, rosy-cheeked perfection in her neat, powder  blue dress with white lace collar. But the attraction of Betsy was the extra item, the icing on the cake !.......................... She came with a complete collection of clothes, displayed in a suitcase that opened out to form a dinky little wardrobe. She had 4 other dresses, a darling little 'princess line' coat in bright red wool, a tartan pleated skirt and a white blouse, some beige jodhpurs and a green sweater, boots, socks and pink plastic shoes and the sweetest little cotton voile nightdress, trimmed with little flowers and scraps of lace, oh yes,............ and a beret and scarf for chilly days !
Oh, how I longed for Betsy and her generous supply of clothing, non of my other dolls were so richly endowed, but pleading and cajoling fell on deaf ears.  She was expensive and we had no money for such fripperies. Children, in those days, were told  "No" and "No" it was - No "ifs" , "buts", or "maybes" and I dare not question my parents decision.

Whenever we went to Stockelds for stationery for my Mama, or for marbles or jacks or a Birthday jigsaw or other such treat, I would go to the doll section and pay homage to Betsy and she would smile down at me and whisper of how she would love to come home with me. But, of course, we always left without her.

After a while I realised that she would never be mine and so, pragmatically, I decided to make a wardrobe of 'Betsy' clothes for my own dolls.  I was about 8yrs old by then and I had been taught to sew by my darling Nana. I told her of my plan and begged some scraps of material and Nana generously gave me an assortment of swatches and a lovely little sewing box, complete with needles, threads, scissors and such and I began. I made skirts and dresses and sometimes the clothes were too small or the necks were too tight or the dress fell off the poor doll's shoulders.  Sometimes the press-stud fastenings were far too big and clumsy for the delicate fabric, but eventually, after much perseverance, I was turning out neat little dresses, coats, nightwear, evening outfits, everything . My dolls must have been the best dressed in Yorkshire !

I then progressed to attempting something for myself, designing and drawing the pattern onto newspaper and cutting out the fabric on my bedroom floor. Then, sitting cross-legged on my bed like some little elf from  a fairy story, I hand-stitched my first 'proper' item. A navy blue, flower-sprigged, glazed cotton dress, with hand-sewn button holes down the back !  And it was perfect ............. well, perfect from a couple of feet away !!  The stitching round the neck was a little wobbly but it fitted beautifully and my pride knew no bounds - I was thrilled - I was a seamstress !!

After that I made almost all of my Summer dresses and nightdresses and my Hallowe'en fancy dress costumes.  This early success fired my lifelong obsession with fashion and sewing and design and even when I was older I made many outfits, all neatly hand stitched and was the envy of my friends, who couldn't understand why they could not find the same designs in the shops. My best friend Joan and I would buy material at the Market on a Wednesday and I would draw out our patterns on the ubiquitous newspaper and cut out the pieces, pin it all together and then we would handstitch like crazy and wear our brand new items on the Friday night. Much to the chagrin of our pals who imagined we knew of some little boutique but were withholding the location.  But I digress !!

I would like to tell you that Betsy eventually became mine. That I woke one Christmas morning and there she was, resplendent at the foot of my bed; that I obtained my hearts desire. But life isn't like that, is it ? That is only for fairy tales.
No, I was never to own Betsy, but I believe I was all the richer for that. If my parents had indulged me and bought the doll and all her finery, would I have bothered to sew things myself ?  Would I have progressed to making my own clothes, would I have been half as creative ? Perhaps, but maybe a part of me would be missing. I would not have learned a valuable lesson, I would have expected everything in life to be easy, to never try to make the best of what I had. I would not have had the fun and sense of achievement, the joy of making something unique and not relying on someone else.

In my youth, one of my favourite bands was the 'Rolling Stones'. They sang  " You can't always get what you want " and , you know, I think sometimes it's just as well !

Friday, 23 March 2012

" Lights, Camera, Action !"

She screwed up her face and tried to remember the Director's words. she began to pout with the effort and her head buzzed with the nuances of the dialogue. This was the important interrogation scene, the pivotal point of the drama. The murderer was just about to pull the wool over the eyes of the 'cops'. She had to get it right.

Filming this 'pilot' had been more difficult than she had expected and she was aware of the gossip, knew what they were saying. She had not done a TV series before, but her last two films were box-office disasters, soon the parts would dry up and she would be forgotten. No matter how famous you are, no-one misses a fading star !
It had all been going well, but then the kind, understanding Director had been sacked and replaced by some whizz-kid; one of those wailers she knew so well, forever picking on her and yelling abuse when she forgot her lines, something she did often nowadays. He was always swearing and stamping his feet if she didn't react swiftly  to his rather haphazard direction. They had to enact the murder scene sixty times and still he was not satisfied. He pointed to her and shouted,

                           " One more time, for Christsakes, you still ain't got it !"

And so she had acted out the scene again, panting with the exertion of dragging the body across the floor. The stuntman had been bound and gagged, but it didn't stop him from winking cheekily, causing her to giggle and drop the 'prop' knife and then forget her lines once more.
The Director had been furious and had dismissed the company, telling them to be in early next morning to,

                            " Get this damn scene shot !"

As they were all filing off the set, he called her over. She approached with acute embarrassment and listened to his screaming , threatening to sack her and hire some nubile newcomer. He went on and on and on ...........

The detective stood over the body and questioned the cast and crew. The Director had been discovered  at dawn, when everyone turned up on the set. He had obviously been stabbed by some madman; the detective had never seen such a frenzied attack.
Soon it was her turn to be questioned and this time she was word perfect.............. her performance was worthy of an Oscar.

The detective thanked her and moved on...............

This has been my entry for Matt's word game and you can find the details on his blog page

This week the words used are ;

                    React, Misses, Wailers, Acute, Pointed, Pout, Panting, Enact, Bound, Pilot.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


   "Of course, it's all a terrible fraud, " she thought to herself, as she sat back down on her velvet-covered chair and once again picked up her tapestry needle. Her lawyers had just left, the documents had been novated ; everything was signed and sealed.  She had offered them refreshment, such as she had, it was a long way from Windsor. But the wine had been sour and Monsieur Carton and Signor Demo had beaten a hasty retreat, full of effusive apologies and excuses; of tales of other appointments, other clients pressing for their time.

             " Ah, time ", she thought, her delicate features wrinkling slightly, " there is never enough time."

She surveyed her handiwork, a rather colourful piece of needle-pointe depicting various historic scenes - scenes of Crusaders and Holy Grails and infidels and bloodshed.  It had proved to be a bigger task than she had anticipated and she wondered if it would ever be finished. The log fire sparked and crackled in the gloom and she placed her needlework on a nearby footstool and dozed in the twilight.
The sound of the door creaking open brought her out of her reverie and in came a group of young boys, each one snottier than the last. They bore dishes of food and a jug of wine and placed it all neatly on a huge oak dining table, then backed deferentially out of the room and left her to her solitary repast. She picked listlessly at the chicken and beef and various sweetmeats, having no real appetite for food, then , sighing deeply, as darkness fell she paced up and down the length of the room, thinking, planning, praying.

The sunlight streamed through the open window and she could hear what sounded like a riot outside.
              " Good gracious," she said, " there must be a considerable crowd out there ".

Her maid, Marie, helped her to dress and arrange her hair. Today, of all days, she must look her best, serene and hauntingly beautiful. When everything was to their mutual satisfaction, Marie handed her her gloves and they both left the room.

              " See how he foams a little at the corners of his mouth and wipes his brow ?" said Marie, "He is very nervous, this is a momentous occasion for him, my lady ."

               " Ah, he need not worry, I have only a very slender neck " was the reply.

Well dear reader, this is my rather poor attempt for this weeks Word Game . As you all know by now the game was invented by Matt Mascarenhas and details can be found on his blog page at

This week the words used were,

              Sparked, Novated, Riot, Sour, Fraud, Foams, Carton, Grails, Snottier, Wipes, Demo.

and I'm afraid I cheated a little, but , hey, I'm a rebel !!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Themed Freewrite.

I have been asked, nay challenged to do a themed freewrite. Now this is quite alien to me and I wonder if I will actually be able to get into the true spirit of freewriting when I have to stick to a topic ! Lord knows I have enough trouble sticking to the point when I am blogging normally so with the freedom of a freewrite my butterfly mind just soars . I have given myself 15 minutes for this task, let us see if I can fill that time with something worth reading !

So, the theme is coffee, that most beloved of beverages. I realise that you will not all feel the same, some people hate coffee but for me it is nectar, sheer ambrosia and I am most definitely a coffee addict. Many years ago I drank tea almost exclusively and only had coffee in the most awful form, the abomination that is the  instant stuff. Oh how I hate instant coffee, well actually i have found one instant coffee that is acceptable but of course me being me , it isn't widely available  . It's made by the ubiquitous Starbucks and is called Via , i think and is in little sachets and is really just their ground coffee , ground very finely, at least that is what i imagine it to be . I take it with a flask of hot water, to dog shows and on trips sometimes. But, there you see im  flying off on another track again . Yes, I used to drink tea but then I decided to give up full cream milk when I was on one of my healthy kicks, I tried semi skimmed and the skimmed and then gave up entirely . on one of our dog show trips I realised that horrible black coffee from a vending machine is better than horrible black tea and so that was it, a coffee addict was born. Ah, coffee, what can match that indescribable aroma , the nutty brown, chocolately wake-up call, first thing on a morning ? It fills the air and permeates my brain and starts the day. I love mine black, no sugar and strong enough to strip the enamel off your teeth,and I love all types, the glorious roasted,  toasted Brazilian and Colombian beans. The thick, gloopy Turkish coffee, The fresh African blends. It all depends on my mood. Yes moods. hmmmm, have you noticed how coffee slips you into certain moods ? The wakey, wakey, morning mood, grabbed hurriedly on the run, croissant in one hand and your travel mug in the other, flying out the door to join the traffic on the motorway. The convivial coffee, mid-morning with friends, young mums in Costa or Starbucks, leather sofas , baristas  brewing the steaming liquid, cups chinking and the low hum of chattering clients lingering over their double mocha skinny lattes. The takeaway coffees seen in the hands of the high-flyers who brandish the corrugated cups like some sort of badge which says ' i'm in a rush, I'm far to busy to stop, see how important I am ' And , of course the date coffee, the sitting face to face , the sips ,the smiles, the togetherness . Like some sort of courtship ritual , the 'Do you fancy a coffee' the air electric with sexual tension, the brief touching of hands as you reach for the sugar. Or even the ultimate invitation , the 'Would you like to come in for a coffee' with all it's connotations both innocent and otherwise ! And now my time is up.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Equality ?

Mandy dropped the coin into the slot, took the can of drink from the vending machine, chewed vigourously on her gum and then turned round to face her suitors. The eager young guys were leering at her legs, exposed all the way up to her knickers. She had hitched up her school skirt until it was just a  'pelmet',  barely visible beneath her white school blouse, which was unbuttoned to reveal glimpses of cheap black bra. She loved the power, the feeling of  adoration, she was in control like some omnipotent ruler.
The other girls sneered at her. The beautiful, poised girls who lived in their  pure white, sugar coated world. They were secure and loved, they didn't know what it was like to live in squalor, hating your alcoholic Mother, your absent Father who drove an oil tanker all over the country and never bothered to come home. But here, at school, she was popular; oh not with the female students, no; but certainly with the boys ! They hung around like flies on jam, all eager to take what she offered.
It had all started when she had been 9yrs old and had gone behind the sports hall and let Billy Smith put his hand on her breast. She understood the salient points of sex by the time she was 10, realised it was a weapon - or at least a way of getting some attention, some love. She was never short of cigarettes, gobstoppers or comics, all given to her in exchange for a quick fumble, a hand on her knickers, a look at her bare skin beneath. Of course, as she got older it had progressed to the  'real thing' , losing her virginity to a spotty 15yr old, behind the village hall at the grand old age of 13.  Now she was 15 and there were always two or three boys waiting at the school gates after school. Waiting and willing to follow her down to the allotment and the disused tool shed by the canal. There she  'earned'  £1 coins and packs of cigarettes and felt loved and wanted and needed for a few short minutes before going home to a slap across the ear, or the sight of her Mother, still in her night attire, unconscious on the filthy sofa.
Sex was her escape and seemed to be what all the boys wanted and so she obliged. She would have given it freely, she didn't ask for  'gifts', she felt popular and far superior to the other girls. The boys laughed about these female students, they called them  'frigid' and 'lesbians' and 'cock-teasers' and any manner of derogatory names .
Mandy stood in the school hall with her entourage and smiled, then , leaning against the school football hero and placing a proprietorial hand inside his shirt she gazed smugly at the virgins, with their golden curls.  Mandy knew she would never be lonely as long as she gave the guys what they wanted.....................

Mandy dropped the coin into the slot and then watched her washing spinning in the dryer. The launderette was empty except for one old vagrant, humming softly to himself as he swigged from a can of  Special Brew. Mandy hugged her thin cardigan around her shoulders and looked out of the finger-marked windows. Young mothers walked past, girls she had known , years ago at school. They wore designer clothes and pushed expensive prams, containing beaming babies. Mandy though of her own babies, little pink, crumpled wailers, that had been taken from her by the social workers. Fostered, adopted. never to be seen again because she was an unfit mother. Was it four or five, she couldn't remember, her mind went hazy and everything merged  when she tried to recall the births and  then she had to seek shelter in a bottle of anti-depressants . She lived her life in solitude now - no longer the darling of the boys. They were all grown up, had important jobs, boasted about their brand new cars and were married to the golden girls from school. These men now shunned her in the street, hurried their perfect children past the  'dirty' lady, the  'slut', the  'prostitute'.
Mandy lifted her washing out of the dryer and carefully placed it in her laundry bag .  'Where had she gone wrong ?' she wondered, all she had ever done was try to  please people, give them what they wanted. She had only been doing the same as the guys, she was still the same person, why weren't they ?
She picked up her heavy bag and wandered back to her lonely flat, as she passed the newsagents she saw the headlines,  " Margaret Thatcher, First U.K Female Prime Minister ".

This sad little piece of fiction is this weeks entry for Matt's word game and contains the words;

            Coin, Boasted, Coated, Tanker, Ruler, Hating, Suitors, Salient, Wailers, Poised, Breast.

The rules and words and any other information can be found on Matt's blog at Do try it, its great fun !