“You look like a carthorse” said Julie as I left Waitrose loaded.  I said immediately “I knew a carthorse, her name was Blossom”. 

I was sent to the country to Mr. and Mrs. More, who had a smallholding with chickens and a pair of heavy horses .  I remember the birds flying behind us on the rut as we ploughed and I sat, small thing, on Blossom’s neck – the smell, the leather, the air, the earth.   Almost everything leads to a story and the stories vary with the teller as well as the listener, what is heard, what is omitted, what is inferred, what I would call if I were a musician, the tone..

As television programming declines, I read and thank God for Moorfields.  But I have other “books”, albums of ideas, impressions, memories.  I usually write on Sundays and I do not read read … that’s what I said to myself … read read.   My mother had a trick of repeating a word for emphasis.  I read  the paper, not a book, before I try to write.  Not read read.  She’d describe the weather as “not cold cold.”   It came to me this morning when I couldn’t sleep.  If I follow this sort of story in my mind it leads to kitchen furniture, the pantry, the back garden and my mind seeks memory

as if it had fingers.

All stories are prismatic, they have lots of sides, and how you interpret the side you’re told varies too.   We have different ideas and perceptions, we are different people, we respond differently to all sorts of input to the human and no machine is ever going to rival that.

Unusually, one day last week I switched on the tv early.  I loathe the so-called breakfast programming, whoever does it.  So I went to the BBC News Channel where I saw a man in a legal wig

sitting behind a bench, the word “Preston” in the top left corner of the screen.  He was a judge and he was summing up.

I had never seen such a thing.  If you say “summing up” to me, I think of a well known actor in an film or a play, a couple of minutes and the story moves on.  I didn’t set out to watch this, I didn’t know what I was watching – but it is a very good insight of how  the same story plays different ways to different people.

There were nine counts, evidence was assessed, put to one side, its perception explained.   It was the story of a young woman now 22 who had made through what the judge called sophisticated use of telephones, keyboards and other all too accessible accessories false allegations against men,  Caucasian and Asian,  involving alleged repeated rape, sex trafficking,  brutality – and none of it checked out.   The police involvement over three small towns went on up to and including riots in the street – those who sided with her, those who didn’t believe her, the destruction of businesses, homes and health. 

The judge continued, adjusting the length of the sentence to include different tariffs and time that must be allowed for this or that.  There were 2 psychiatric reports, one of which he set aside explaining why he did so.    He sentenced her to 16 years which he cut by half because of her extreme youth.   He spoke of how she would be managed after that, what she would be allowed to do and not do.

On the evening’s Channel 4 news, I saw an item with a good reporter which included a brief interview with the mother of the accused.  The word that came to mind was “unreal”.  

I’ve seen two pieces in the paper, heard a couple of news items and they are all reduced for a whole slew of reasons including historical relevance, interest and (I imagine) a great wish to move on.  It is a complicated case which doesn’t lend itself to easy journalistic compression and was out of the main stream.

It was one side of a story, I had never heard that story or that side before.   It did not close the gate in my mind.  It made me think.   Now I know why  “know-it-all” was such a criticism in my family.   We don’t. 

“knock hard, life is deaf”

When I first began to write annalog,

stomp box – perfect!

I asked what would happen to past pieces  and was told they would stay on the internet.  I thought that was odd, untidy almost –  though probably better value than a tombstone.   So there’s a decade of annalog including odd excuses for technical problems and holiday breaks.  And Jiz.  Except the words aren’t there.  Any banging on the door of wordpress will be much appreciated. 

Jiz was a wonderfully generous friend who pulled me gently back into standing position after the knockout of divorce. She was wracked with cerebral lupus (a variable syndrome, hers was punitive) and eventually she departed this life, leaving me to remember her and the above – a quote from a French Canadian surrealist called Mimi Parent.

I thought of it about 4.00 this morning, an hour with which I have become all too well acquainted lately.

The man who asked the questions for the survey at the Office of National Statistics (far too much expensive printed paper for a take up of one in three) asked what my father did.   “Director of Physical Education for the boys in the North Riding.”   I explained Yorkshire is the biggest county,

used to be four ridings -north, south, etc.  and he oversaw maintenance of playing fields, equipment, made suggestions, haggling to provide plimsolls that could be borrowed so that boys, whose parents couldn’t afford them, could take part in  gym and sports.     “Did your mother work ?”  Her title was Deputy Superintendent, Further Education for Women, in Middlesborough, organising classes on a wide range of subjects, making the schedules, finding the spaces and keeping the peace, eventually in her last years teaching English and Arithmetic to student nurses. Then he gave me a date.  “What were you doing then ?”    “Working for IPC Magazines.”   So was he, as a production manager. In all the millions, we met on the telephone.   

So knock hard doesn’t only suggest noise to me, it suggests sticking to things, endurance, memory. Names may change, ideas vary, things fall out of use (those long mellifluous titles my parents had, for one) but you are still trying to get a handle on life, so you can deal with the bad bits and enjoy the rest.   Knock hard means there are people who won’t understand why

– why Van Gogh painted as he did, why Stravinsky composed his music, why it takes humans until they have nearly wiped something out and ruined it before they realise and begin to look after it better – see Paul Whitehouse’s programme on British waterways.   

Knock hard suggests not being afraid to be heard and having to account for the noise.  Knock hard  suggests life is tough, nothing sweet or soft or furry except in passing.   The knockout World Nature Photography Awards 2022 includes a wonderful picture of a leopard climbing.  Oh that rump – velvet eat your heart out.  But sweet ?   Not a leopard.  

Many animal lovers contribute to a language problem with this.  There are those who think that we must be soppy to animals so that animals will be soppy back, forgetting that when God made animals, he didn’t make them soppy. He made them worthy of respect which is a rather different ballgame. 

I think life is often deaf because the knocking is cacophonous, we bang and hassle and it’s not coherent – the opposite of the clarity of persistent knocking, which is.  There is so much noise in the world that we can’t hear the question.    So it’s a kind of circle.  We should knock  – because life is deaf – in order to hear more clearly but often all we do is add to the noise and obscure any chance of understanding.   The BBC’s current ructions are a perfect example.  I’m sure you have an opinion though all we now know is a perfect example of half the story. And I am waiting for respected colleagues to make it clearer to us – without the paranoia that woke me at 4.00 am.   Because I am stuck with remembering of  “systematic delusions of a persecutory nature” (paranoia): just because you think they are after you, doesn’t mean they’re not.     

A Paranoid World by Richard Bentall 


Buns – so named because he can be bribed for a cup of tea and something munchy sweet to eat –

has moved to a house in its own ground in Mayo, Eire.  The consideration of this took years (literally) and  as it is not near anybody else, he can sing as well as clean and paint.   And I rang last night.  He does. 

So we spoke of the weather, his book and my book, and his meeting a Frenchman who came and spoke to him in the library because he overheard him use a Gaelic term.  And then he told me that he had caught up with an old broadcasting acquaintance, 14 years in the BBC, who now has to reapply for her job –  fill out a form,  make a tape, in other words act as if the intervening years never  took place. 

  What a waste of time and how utterly cynical because whoever is in charge knows full well how many jobs must be cut.   Wouldn’t it be more honest to lengthen the time of notice, call in those whose names are on the “out” list, apologise, be straight and let them get on with rearranging their lives ?  You can’t make it “nice” so why try to ?

Several years ago, I watched the review of the year at New Year on the BBC News Channel (now also threatened with amalgamation and tosserdom) and was so impressed that I waited and took the name of the producer to whom I sent an email saying how much I had enjoyed it, cherry topped by the Aretha Franklin song at the end ? 

Not only did she reply  but she sent me the  uncut item, writing “I think you might enjoy this !”   So we are in touch once a year.  

Christmas 2022, after 18 years with the corporation, she told me she is going through the same nonsense and she won’t play.  She’s on her way, heaven knows to whom or what.

While the endless evocation of the BBC iPlayer leads me to assume that soon, that’s how BBC tv will run.    Last week, I saw a short item which gave a date after which you wouldn’t see local news unless you had updated your television.

And there is nobody to speak to about this.  Ours not to reason why …  Whoever the head honcho will make an appeal about economies and the television license, changing patterns and expectations of viewers, et cetera.  And I will thank heaven I read. There are things on the BBC that drive me mad, things that are wonderful and the latter gets harder and harder to find. “Well, if you want the news” said a woman on the bus “you watch Al Jazeera.”

Meanwhile afternoon independent television, in between endlessly touting insurance or funerals, has reached a new low with an ad showing (purportedly) menstrual blood on a marvellously absorbent sanitary towel and a mock Regency dressed group round a table bemoaning cramps, flow  and so on – who are offered as dessert a brand new pack of wonderful tampons as the answer to everything. Except possibly taste.   And an ad for a durably popular laxative now shows a simplified form of the interior organs with appropriately coloured material moving through. 


Out of the several reviews I have read for a new series of Unforgotten – a police procedural about  cold cases – which may not be your thing and I respect that – all namecheck the new female lead alongside the old one but not one mentions the different style of writing or making or a remarkably ungooey and realistic friendship.  And friendship is unbeatable.

 There are days  I never thought would come, when I do not turn the box on.   I understand the repeats but not on a loop.   I am far from alone in being borne down by endless bad news.  I can only handle it when I can handle it.  I am fascinated by the bad voices and heavy accents which do not lend themselves to communication, even if I can see the faces. It’s a box all right, but not the one they thought.     

questions never answered

Who is paying for the legal representation of Shamima Begum,

she who quit the country for Isis and became a casualty of its fall?  a lot of money is involved.   I am not masochistic enough to want to listen to 14 podcasts in that monotonous voice but I am fascinated that, in amongst allegations of trafficking, sexual abuse, Canadian double agents, nobody has mentioned shock.  I am big on shock.  Not  “oh my goodness, how could you ?” but the quantifiable medical kind.

The mental and physical interact in shock.

And if you have left your country, embraced a malevolent and violent fairy story, and if you are as bright as you are supposed to be, you can see that it is, surrendered to a member of the prevailing clan, had and lost three children under bombardment, I suggest shock should be part of the story.  Because – never mind how bright you are – it will make what you say unreliable.

Why is Helen Mirren (don’t bother me with the dame, I couldn’t care less) willing to pose with thin grey hair in a string down her back, unbecoming to put it mildly?  I suppose I should remember that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Of what interest is the emotional rehabilitation of Nicky Campbell through meeting the child of his abuser?   Why is the declaration of abuse both prevalent and misunderstood? 

  I know medical services of every kind are overstretched but media is not the same as medicine.   Allowing for the fact that there are as many dubious therapists as there are bad restaurants and hairdressers,  speaking to  somebody privately about difficult things – as difficult in their verbalisation as their perception –  is not the same as giving a newspaper interview.  I’ve done both.   We are in grave danger of electing the press to be judge, jury, mediator, therapist and priest, if we haven’t already done it because we are scared of losing ground to social media.  

And while every so often we hear a good story about social media, most of them aren’t. 

Social media is the logical extension of that person you spotted briefly in the body of the hall, from the platform on which you were speaking, and thought “Oops, be careful.”  Only now they hide.  We do not see them and they are not less violent and nasty for being unseen.

Apart from human compassion, why should I care about a man with a brain, a job and a bike

– who rides without a helmet so that rescuing him took hours of police time, ambulance driver, paramedics, skilled hospital staff?   He may have eyes but he has no vision.  And in his article he writes of “vulnerable road users”.  Pause for gnashing of Raeburn teeth.  Bike riders who observe any kind of road safety, road courtesy or the Highway Code are in a minority.  They may think they are a higher form of life but they’re dangerous.

And then you wonder about the explosion of couples having babies.  I know the positives – oh heaven, do I !  But the world is compromised in terms of global warming.  Extreme weather abounds – and is increasingly impacting on food.  

People can’t eat and they can’t earn.  In the UK we are sitting on top of the breakdown of much of our accepted (because it has operated successfully for so long) social structure. 

The housing shortage has existed unattended for 50 years.  There aren’t enough places in schools.   We are busy mechanising thousands of jobs so what price work?  The country is about to take on board another refugee intake – and they all have to have something to eat, somewhere to live, put children in school, be cared for when they are unwell. 

I am not a negative person – I have just had a wonderful half hour in Harrods and I never thought that would happen again – but I am a realist and I am not sure who else is.  I am delighted Grant Shapps has helped a Ukrainian family (photo op) but I want to know when he is going to do something about the rapine of the energy companies upon the citizenry.  Isn’t that part of what he is paid for?  

10 months to resolve my dispute

Valentine vanity

I’d like to think that my vanity – all in its various bits – is less to do with conceit or what the OED calls “excessive pride” and more to do with a suitable degree of amour propre. 

Of course I would.  I do begin many thoughts and sentences with the word “I” but I comfort myself that I am at least putting myself on the line, using myself as an example, rather than making value judgments about everybody else . And I can’t stand simpering self deprecation – “Oh, this old thing” (the most expensive thing in the wardrobe), “just something I knocked up” (four hours over a hot stove, now you know how rich we are as well as how labour intensive the efforts).

My vanity is currently dented by  a frankly unsatisfactory  haircut. 

Please promise that if anyone picks up scissors in a hairdressers and starts talking about how talented he or she is given that they have OCD – you will leave the premises smartly.   I didn’t – and here we are.  It has been tidied up but significant improvement will take time.

Last week I had an appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital on Valentine’s Day.  I was greeted by the receptionist for the clinic with an awed “But you used to be on the telly !”.

I said it was a long time ago.   (And me without a shred of eye makeup.) She and her colleague thought it was wonderful.  And then I had hardly sat down before the couple opposite commenced urgent consultation until the wife got up and came over.  “Are you “ she asked most politely” Anna Raeburn ?”   I stood up to answer her, she thought I hadn’t heard and repeated the question, while I was simultaneously summoned by a Nigerian nurse called Toby.  “Guilty as charged” I said smiling and excused myself.  When we’d done those tests, I went back via where they were sitting to say thank you.    

In the last clinic before the injection, young eye surgeons check that the preceding injection worked, was comfortable, there were no problems and I drew to the attention of the doctor I was with to the  eye they don’t inject having an itch at 4.00 am.  I promised I never touched it but that when I got up  a couple of hours later, it was caked.   She asked me how I cleaned it – I said warm water and clean cotton wool, carefully.  She had a look at it

and excused herself to consult with a colleague.  When she came back within the promised few minutes, she said they would not be doing the injection, antibiotic drops were prescribed, 4 times a day both eyes for 14 days and then another appointment.  Apparently eye infections travel easily from one eye to the other. 

The pharmacy  was downstairs – Moorfields has lots of volunteers to direct you -and there were maybe a dozen people waiting.  Having handed over my prescription and been given a ticket, I watched the man probably younger than me but in that age group, at the end of the row in front of me.  He was reading.  After several minutes, I put my lips close to his ear.   “The moral superiority of reading in an eye hospital is not lost on me” I said.  He replied at once without missing a beat ” I can’t read.  Just tell me the book’s right way up.” 

And we commenced quiet comfortable joshing for the next several minutes.  He said he was an undertaker and when summoned to collect his prescription, he remarked that there were people dying to meet him … a line I suggested he had used before. Grinning, he said in farewell ”Same time next week ?”   “Sure” I said.  “Bring a book.”   All very good natured, and very good for Valentine’s Day.

Books sent to radio stations used to be piled up and if you’d a fancy for something and its time was past, you put your name in the front so you could claim it.   Which is how I came by a Women’s Institute calendar of feasts

and learned that Valentine’s used to be more generally to do with “Knock and Run” secret gifts – “anyone might benefit, not just lovers.”    I did.  

never goodbye

My parents had been married 48 years

when my father died.   He asked to be buried with his mother, whom my mother loved too.  Years later some brave or foolish person asked my mother, didn’t she return to Kent sometimes to see the grave ?   “No” said my mother memorably.  “That’s not where he is.”   I didn’t have to ask because I understood what she meant.  It was my upbringing.  Memorials come in different forms, they mean different things  to different people and our perception of them, the meaning we attach to them changes over time.  

When I was young I was invested in things lasting.  I loved  books and antiques

and  history because it was all about  the endurance of things.   But when the Ukraine War accelerated, you only had to see one photograph of the front blown off a perfectly ordinary apartment building to know how tenuous what we think of as solid and lasting is.

For the last few days, the battered people of Syria and Turkey have been all over our media,  scrabbling barehanded through the night at piles of what were  homes and houses, weeping beyond tears.  “My  children are under this” indicated a man, “ and nobody comes, no equipment, no one to help us, no food, no water.” 

And it has been cold.   So the chances of saving people have been less.

I know, everybody’s different and long live those differences but though I can understand not wanting your children under a  pile of rubble, I don’t understand wanting to  “see” them again.  They are gone.  Everything that they were has gone from this world into your recall.

For some people, memory is as fragile as the buildings thrown seismically into the air.  For the rest of us, it is the sustaining force of how to live in the world.  And sometimes it seems that what isn’t any more, is even stronger.  You can’t live in memory  but it makes daily life a great deal more bearable.

My father hasn’t been a constant presence as an image.  I have only see him, or bits of him  (the line of his head and shoulders) two or three times in the fifty plus years since he died.  But I hear his voice, I remember him telling stories.   My mother lives in my face, sometimes unsettlingly.   And she loved words, so certain words connect me to her immediately .  The intonations of both parents’ voices come to me at the darndest times, funny or serious, deeply in narration.

Both of them exemplarily explained ideas to me carefully and that’s a whole other set of connections.  This is not because I am necessarily always in agreement with them but that will to reach me, to offer me an interpretation, may be highly intangible but the wish behind it remains.  They are not gone.  I just can’t see them. 

What you believe and how it affects you is a subtle shifting stew of culture,  expectations, personality, family history,  imagination, need and will.    I thought I understood that what I believed in was underpinned by monuments, mostly manmade however long ago, but as I get older, I understand that what enables me to go forward is accounts of other people’s journeys in the world, literally and  imaginatively, the history of the land, what’s left and how it sits now, thousands of years later.    I accepted the law of paradox

ie if it looks like it’s built to last, it probably won’t and if it’s ephemeral, it probably will.   I once described old Mr.Moss  who lived at the top of the road opposite when I was a child, as looking like a dry leaf.   Human life is very small.  What is monstrous is the contempt in which other humans hold it.  

Keira Bell vv The Tavistock

Apparently the President of Turkey  took enormous paybacks from bad builders, who have now fled,  leaving the poor to do what the  poor do – starve and endure, starve and die, mourn and try again.   I hope Erdogan’s name is entered in the Heavenly Accounts on the debit side.

And Syria ?  Held by a blackguard, Syria was Putin’s rehearsal.  We can’t know what is coming.  We can only cleave to our good memories, and know that they are more use than any tombstone.   


Headlines in equal parts – dismay

about the dog walker who vanished, and Happy Valley.  Reality and fiction.  What we know of the reality is awkward, unhappy and confused.  And the fiction is terrifically well written, I watched the first two series with bated breath.  Couldn’t hack series three but millions did.  I watched Vera.   And let me say now – I don’t watch anything “obsessively”.   

I began watching Vera

because I had had the great pleasure of interviewing Belinda Blethyn about an agreeable memoir.  Halfway through the interview, in a station  break  (they play ads, you catch your breath) I said “You’re not Welsh at all, you keep talking about  Margate and Ramsgate.”   “Yes, well, “ she said.  “That’s where the family is from.”   So she changed her name?  She nodded, she had.  “What was it ?”   “Bottle.”  

No name for an actress, I could see that, and the Bottles are an old smuggling family. 

“Was there a Tom Bottle in your bit of the family ?”  I asked.  “My uncle Tom” she grinned.  “He was my father’s best friend” I told her.  And we danced up and down with excitement before returning to the business in hand.

My father boxed in the army of WWI, in a detachment now largely forgotten (because of the  obliterating losses in Europe) except for belated tribute to the Sikhs.  And at one stage he boxed with a then famous actor,

Victor McLagen, in a town anglicised into Jubblepore.  As my father came out of his corner, a voice from the crowd shouted “Come on, St. Peters !” (the village where he lived) and the voice was Tom Bottle’s. I grew up with this story.

Years later, when we walked back up the graveyard at St. Peters having buried my father, we came over a slight rise to two rows of elderly men very neat, very erect: what was left of my father’s unit.  My mother and sister passed with other family members and I beamed at the man on my right.  “Know that smile anywhere” he said.  “And you’re Tom Bottle” I said.  And he was.

I began watching Vera  out of curiosity, the tension in the character between her often difficult, even unpleasant manner and her ability which was considerable and generous.  Blethyn is a good actress.  The series was often imaginatively cast.  And the scenery is the scenery of my youth.  

Strange, oddly coloured, often bleak but sometimes unexpectedly beautiful, old, waiting… The north east of England is another country.

I have always thought setting cops and robbers in the countryside changes the story before you start – distances have to be travelled, small communities are often indrawn against strangers (this was before the word police had become almost swearing), the weather has different impact.   The stones and heaths may see but they don’t tell.

My parents did everything they could to make me look around me, to show me that though the town I was born in wasn’t an oil painting, some of the surrounding country was at worst interesting and at best dazzling.  It’s too late to tell them how deeply those lessons have stayed with me, not just that countryside either.   I should add that I am always interested in cinematography

and Vera is often terrifically well shot.

I am not going to tell you I have loved every minute of it – I haven’t. I’ve caught up with an episode I missed and thought “I could have left that.”  But casting absorbed early on the lesson of people just being people instead of black people or disabled people and never lost it.  Occasionally an outstanding script deals with things you and I know happen but we don’t often hear about – two men who loved each other from boyhood but never got further than dumb adoration, a distressed family with a father blamed when it was the wife who was doing the hitting and God knows what the teenage son saw or intuited.   And I think a two hour script in a long running series is much more difficult than an hour and forty/forty five minutes to which such stories more usually incline.

Something on television?  Really.

the other way round

The lovely long curly wavy hair I had as a child may have looked nice but it was hell to keep knot free.   Getting the brush or the comb through other than superficially day to day involved my mother gritting her teeth and me growling and howling and many tears.   The sweetener was chocolate. 

  “It’s a food” opined my mother, breaking off two squares.   “And if it’s good enough for Captain Scott, it’ll do you.”  

I have hardly any sweet tooth but I habitually kept the plain chocolate in a plastic box in the fridge, for occasional use.  Pam the Painter who has a sweet tooth is gratifyingly impressed.   But then one day, when the Italian sweet rusks I bought to eat one of for breakfast became too expensive, I tried a much cheaper product, a similar thing, lighter, made of oats and edged with plain chocolate. And began to eat one with my coffee for breakfast.    The point of this is not to bore you rigid with the chocolate component of my admirably sensible diet but to point out that I stopped buying bars of chocolate.  I bought the chocolate edged biscuits and had one for breakfast, at that end of the day  when I can burn anything, rather than a couple of squares in the evening when I can’t.  

In Saturday’s Times magazine I read the following : “Our ageing population is one of the greatest threats we have ever faced – but what if we worked out how to keep people healthier for longer?

Raghib Ali has the answer.  The former A&E doctor needs just one in ten of us to sign up to one of the biggest medical trials in history.  Prepare to be recruited on your next weekly shop.”

It’s a fascinating piece because, instead of writing yet another lament about strikes and the burden on the NHS, this talks about how research is setting out to accrue data which can be used to employ clever medical insights the other way around, not to keep the elderly from dying, but to prevent them, younger, from getting ill. 

It used to be common to talk about how difficult it was to get men to go the doctor – always supposing you can currently get an appointment.  A chronically ill friend waited 8 weeks to see a GP and left in tears of frustration. So let’s put aside getting to see a doctor and presume you can.  The people who won’t go, won’t go, because they are afraid of what they’d learn, because they might be faced with bad news and worse still, their own responsibility in trying to get better.

Not wanting to hear bad news, being scared, not wanting to have to change but hoping for a magic wand – that’s a personality – whichever sex. 

And I will never forget how taken aback was the young clinical research fellow who tried to brief me when I first went to Moorfield for eye injections.  Between the  complex terminology, her strong accent and a mask, we weren’t getting very far till I heard a word and stopped her.  “Are you asking me to take part in research ?” She agreed, she was.  “Then yes, yes.”  She was astounded and when she explained, so was I. 

People don’t like to take part in research, they fear intrusion, indiscretion, being treated less well than they might otherwise be.  I waved it all away and had the great pleasure of meeting her again two years later, the first four injections in her research project, the rest in Moorfields outpatient clinics. Bless them.

Social transition is almost always slower than we like to think.  People look at a longterm project which might benefit them and delay – till after the holiday, when I’ve done the kitchen.  But the wheels are coming off the cart of  a particular model.

When Snowdrop tells me about his mother  going to yet another appointment, for yet another prescription, but nobody ever sits her down  and tries to make a picture of what’s gone before and build on it, it is a dramatic illustration of our over dependence – unhealthy dependence  – on a particular model eg., go to the doctor and get a prescription. 

I don’t know what is involved in this project,  I am probably too old to be useful but I am – as my father used to say – putting my hand up in church.  If I can be useful, I’m going to be and I am sending the article to the Princess of Wales

who is avowedly interested in benefitting the younger.

To sign up, go to and investigate biobank.  

excessive unease

Given her own she was born the daughter of a

princely Prussian house.   She married a British double barrelled bully and after a long time with many ups and downs, he has gone to glory (where he will bore the saints) and she is facing being alone.   Alone is always a challenge unless you are one of nature’s loners.   Yesterday she remarked “ I just feel so unsettled.”   And I asked why wouldn’t you ?  She said “You feel it too ?”   I said I did.  Yesterday I watched the news on Al-Jazeera and if you wanted clarified the idea of the world in uproar, there it was.  I lasted a few minutes.   She agreed and we worked our way round to how we survive.

Years ago Johnson and Johnson

manufactured pantyliners and as she would talk about most things, I was asked to address the local sales force.  Informed about female hygiene, I knew how such an accessory  might be useful.   I also knew from what I had heard that they were planning to sell it to everybody all day everyday upon which I remarked unfavourably.   Shutting of ventilation from the area has never been advisable.  “And you’re promoting anxiety.  We don’t need any help.”  And we surely don’t now.

Excessive unease is part of the dictionary definition of anxiety.   Judi Dench once famously remarked that there was such a thing as good stress and I am sure that you can be nervously wishing to do your best, whatever the context,

and the anxiety will resolve into the realisation of something good ie he’s lovely, you cleared the high jump or you got the job.

The anxieties of the present age get under your nails and into your soul.

For years, the consolation was to go out and buy something, even something small.  But small and modest is in shorter supply than it has ever been, even supposing it’s effective.   And you hesitate – the ordinarily moneyed hesitate – to spend money on anything you don’t have to have. 

Food prices continue to rocket.  Two of the most famously inexpensive supermarket chains are now putting their prices up. 

Every kind of work structure costs more – more to clean, more to light, more to heat, more for tea and coffee, more for unguents, more for waste.  If you can keep work.  Over the shoulder for many leers the malign ghost of unemployment. 

It’s easier to hide your troubles when times are easier.  You can evade them, go out, go to the movies, a concert, an exhibit, have one two three drinks and stagger home in a taxi.  None of that, not now. You watch and make the money go round.  There’s one more wash in the bottom of the box of soapflakes.  Another month to get out of those shoes.

And much as I long to be able to support – even if only by looking – I have never seen such ugly lines as is offered to women in what are called fashion stores.  I had an hour or two looking around last week and it sent me home to count my blessings and change my scarves.  They are what I call “standing still clothes” – shoes too – OK if you’re slight, young and modelling but absolutely incongruous if you are wearing them and moving in them. 

    The psychological interpretation of standing stock still and hoping not to be noticed comes to mind.

Years ago just after the Japanese tsunami, I met a Japanese woman in the local branch of a dress shop I liked.  Of course I asked after her family and she ended our short conversation with a bow such as I have never seen, though read about.  A couple of weeks ago and 12 years later, we met again.  She remembered me, I remembered her.    And we spoke about the world, bad news and my determination to find the good and think of the beautiful as a means of spiritual survival.  In conclusion, she reached out and took one hand of mine in both of hers.  “You live your life” she said. She said it twice with an emphasis on “your”.  We looked at each other, she bowed like a leaf.  I said I would. 


can’t do it without you

There are lots of things you can do alone

though you may prefer to do them with somebody, what you want and what you get being two different matters.  The magic of the programme about the relationship between songs in Scotland, Ulster and the States was that it featured songs travelling, being rewritten and reinvented, addressed and sung by people who had played instruments for so long that the instrument had become another arm, another tongue – an extra bit of the person.  But you can still perform music alone.  The ballad singers who began to move the music sang in the street.   I’ve done that.

Last week I wrote on a wet Saturday, trying to make sense of the time but this Saturday is quite different.  It took well over a year to persuade me that I could write what I call a column and other people call a blog.  Column has the remnants of a professionalism I cherish, anybody can write a blog and I mutter to myself “I am not anybody.”  That is not quite as conceited as it risks sounding.  I am deeply convinced of individualism.    Even when it is a wagtail

trying to cross the road (yes really, this morning – and of course I saw it through the traffic, making encouraging noises in the rain.)

But I didn’t know how long I could keep up the idea of a weekly blog to my standards.  All sorts of people write columns, not all of them very good.  To chose the subject(s), complete the form, select the pictures and turn up something I could put my name to every week was demanding.   And yes I have before now written and put the copy aside only to look at it in the cold light of day and shake my head regretfully.  Not good enough.   And I have to be able to stand my ground to my own taste when I don’t get feedback. What I write is a closer to “op.ed” (opinion/editorial) than a popularity contest.   

Although in these stages I am alone, and I enjoy them – I’d never have kept it up for ten years without you.  No social media, old fashioned PR or any other kind of promotion – and I am shamelessly proud of that – It’s our tenth birthday,

yours and mine.  The first annalog was 14 January 2013 and here we are.  I wish you a dazzling self replenishing birthday cake, with candles and sparklers that never wear out.   And thanks from the bottom of my heart for making a dream I did not realise I had come true.

We often hear about the power of the circle in the negative, but what goes around, comes around can be positive – and I have lived to be told what the radio programmes I fronted did for the people who derived something from them.  They had one advantage – the magic component of voice. 

We diminish this to our cost. 

This week a woman wrote to me, about how something I had said had affected her life. She married and had children very young but pulled herself out of years of work as a carer, to go back into education where she became the first member of her family to go to university, continue to work and study and is now a research scientist. She wrote movingly about how she had stayed happily married, how her life’s journey had changed things for the better for her and her family.  She thanked me for my wise words (her phrase) and how they had made all the difference to her family (her words).  I was staring transfixed at the screen. 

This was clearly an annalog birthday present.

If my voice is not present in annalog, then clearly the inference of it is.  Whoever is reading is very real to me and it seems clear that I am equally real to you, hence the circle.   And because you read me and I had ten years to do it in, I was able to learn a shape and pursue it into similarity and variance.  Ginny once called me a wordsmith and I love the idea of me with small silver hammers making verbal shapes and learning all the time.  Happy  birthday.