Dec 24th

It would not be Christmas without Scrooge.

By mike

     ‘It would not be Christmas without Scrooge.‘  This was proclaimed by ‘Talking Pictures‘  - an English freeview channel  - when they announced one of their Christmas offerings.  Last night’s offering had been ‘Heaven’s Above”  I think few ‘Word Clouders’ will be old enough to remember this film.  My local cinema is showing ‘The Main who invented Christmas’ about Dickens and ‘The Christmas Carol.’  

    I wish World Clouders all the best for the New Year.   Like many people I am spending Christmas on my own but I do feel, if I were not, my companions might well be people of a literary bent.  I have got a posh bottle of wine, some stuff to put in the slow cooker in the morning and a thriller from my local library.  I am counting my blessings.

    My particular Christmas wishes are to the staff of ‘St Martins-in-the Field’ in Trafalgar Square. I do go there regularly and put my spare cash into their collecting boxes.

Dec 20th

Creepy childhood writing

By ThatOneNerd

Has anyone ever looked back at their old old writing and think to themselves, "Wow, how did my parents not have me tested?" Well, I had one of those moments. 

Hola, I'm Trula. And I am a potato in search of friends. Welcome to my first blog post. 

So for the past few days, my mother has been nagging me to clean my room for visiting relatives. Finally, I surrendered. It was here that I found one of my old diaries, filled cover to cover in stories. The last entry was 2013, so I was still in elementary school.

Holy shizzel sticks! My 3rd grader mind was twisted! One entry, for example, was a story about little Trula battling this evil woman who used a laser to slice apart my friends and turn their insides to stone. I defeated the woman and became the queen of the land.

Another one was a short story for my aunt's blog back in 2012.
Barbie and Ken's failing marriage story. It jumps from them screaming at each other, to a giant lizard kidnapping Barbie, Ken killing the thing, them having babies then taking their newborn babies on a family vacation to "The Temple of Doom." No wonder why she didn't put it on her blog. 

Oh! I just found another! In 1st grade, we had to write daily one page stories at the beginning of class. This one is about how my teacher at the time was kidnapped by a giant tarantula, and I had to save her with this chick called Emily. Long story short, poor miss teacher didn't survive and Emily became the new teacher.

Wow. I was really messed up when I was younger.

"Trula has a wonderful imagination, but please have a talk with her about limits in writing. I enjoyed the story, but not my death." Was the teacher's note. 

Well, I guess that settles it. I was destined to be a writer since the very beginning. 


Thats all for now! Have any of you ever reread some of your childhood writing and had a similar experience?

Dec 19th

Border People

By Momo

When the weather is sunny, and you happen to see nature in the spring here, you see why the East and West have challenged each other for these lands, and when none of them prevailed, they placed here the border. For people who wanted to stay and live here, nothing was as simple as it may seem. For as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." It may only be added that when it comes to faith - and people have to believe in something - it becomes even more confusing. Here at the border between East and West, God becomes devil, and devil becomes God at noon, and God becomes God and devil becomes devil again at midnight. (Because the East and West have different views on what is good and what is bad.) And thus the border people lose everything that other people have. Because what God gives them, devil - who is God from noon to midnight - takes away from them, and what devil gives them, God - who is devil from noon to midnight - takes away from them. The border people were left with only two gifts - love and music. The love that is God, and the music that heals the wounds of love. 

Dec 18th

Dr Hairy and the QCQ, Part 10

By Edward Picot

Dr Stead image

The concluding episode of the current series. 
Dr Hairy is cornered by the vengeful Dr Stead, who wants to know why he said 'bollocks' to the QCQ. Luckily, Dr Hairy remembers Grabber's advice about pleading insanity - with hilarious results!
YouTube -
Vimeo -
- Edward Picot - personal website

Dec 17th

school fiction

By mike

“She was the kind of schoolgirl undreamed of even in the pages of Angela Brazil.‘ (aunt Kathleen)    

       Angela Brazil - a writer of school stories - is not forgotten. I notice that a play has been written about her and it was performed this year at the ‘Edinburgh Fringe.  I’ve put this together the interest for writers of fiction for children.  I came across Angela Brazil when I looked at one of  Kathleen’s essays last week.

      Squidge recently raised an issue of girls’ fiction and boys’ fiction.  Do boys read fiction which has a strong female protagonist?   I think it unlikely.  The ‘school’ genre seems to have been gender specific.  Is it now redundant?  Rowling can be congratulated in writing books in this genre which can appeal to all sexes.   I saw the film ‘Wonder Woman’ last week but don’t know if it had a male teenage audience?

    My computer is really the Phol Pot of political correctness.  I am urged to replace ‘lady’ with a word that is not ‘gender specific’ but no mention is made of the use of ‘gentleman‘  I find this sexist!   The male stereotype is the problem.  Watch ‘Movies for Men’ on ‘Freeview’

    This is not my field,  though I had written a teenage novel with a female protagonist -  the lead singer in a pop group.    This was written around 1980.   I am unbiased in the matter.

       My interest is in an aunt’s writing and my connection with her is that she made me the executor of her estate.   Her will was settled some years ago. There is no mention of her writing in this will and she had little published.   I try to keep her writing ticking over.  I typed everything out but have not changed a word.    Her essays are as she wrote them and I’ve only added a few later essays - and an introduction to her book.

    At Christmases I used to make a booklet out of a poem or an essay and sent it round as a Christmas card.   I have added a story at the end of this blog.  I must admit it could be cut .The first two paragraphs can go.  I am convinced Maureen Lipman, or others, could make comedy out of this.  Maureen Lipman has portrayed Joyce Grenfell and Kathleen's essay can be turned into a monologue.  The only audience might be radio 3!  (The films of St Trinians are a bit too late to have influenced Kathleen)

    Her essays on childhood were written when she attended Naomi Lewis’s classes at the City Lit in London and are considered in this respect.  They were written after the second world war, when she lived with her husband in the house where I was born.  This was in Tulse Hill, South London. The house - Victorian Gothic - is described in Kathleen’s concluding  essays where it is made apparent that she has moved to London and is recalling her Edwardian childhood in Manchester.  In one of the later essays she describes a schoolfriend, Maudie Bannister, and comments: ‘She was the kind of schoolgirl undreamed of even in the pages of Angela Brazil‘    Two novels of Brazil are mentioned in the essay and one of  the titles  is the title of the play performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

     Angels Brazil’s stories -  - set in a girls’ boarding school - were the stories that Kathleen might well have read when she was a schoolgirl.    Brazil’s first story ‘the Fortunes of Phillipa’ was published in 1906 and her books were the popular stories of the period.  I don’t know if her books are remembered now?   It does not seem likely, if you look at Amazon UK.

     The Edwardian era covers the years 1901 to 1910 - the years of King Edward’s reign - but this does seem rather arbitrary.  The era seems to include the first world war.    I think of it as a time when radio and film - and recorded sound - were in their infancy.  It was a time of books and periodicals.  According to her ‘wiki,’ Brazil’s stories were popular well into the century.

     Nesbit’s ‘The Railway Children’ was also published in 1906 and Nesbit has the lasting success.     I did hear  Jacqueline Wilson on radio 3,  and she recalled that the book had been an influence on her own writing.   (‘The Railway Children’ had been set on the suburban railway line that I take into Kent)  I recall Wilson  mentioned ‘Little Women’ and ‘What Katy did’  but I looked at her ‘Wiki‘   The two writers are separated by a good many years, but the influences seem the same.  I wonder if Wilson is a fan of the Brontes?

      Kathleen’s essays are written for, I think, and adult audience and she did compile them into a book which she tried to publish.  I do recall that she felt her writing was too middle-class for the time and there might be some truth in this.  I do recall that, in the seventies, ‘culture’ was dominated by ‘On the Buses’ etc.  It was the era of television.  Her children’s novel is really Nesbit  set in 1960 and this was the time.of the Beatles.  The artist that would exemplify Kathleen is  Kathleen Ferrier and, in particular, Ferrier’s rendering of ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ but the essays only refer to the piano music of the Edwardian era.

      Her influences are as likely to have been Virginia Woolf as much as Nesbit.  She could write an effective parody of T.S Eliot as well as poems for tiny tots.  She had been extremely literate.  She and her husband made a yearly pilgrimage to Howarth and the Brontes were her favourite authors.   She wrote an obituary of the dog who greeted visitors to the Bronte Guest house and this was published in ‘The Guardian’  It was one of her few  published articles, though some of the essays  on childhood were used by the RNIB  and many of her childrens’s poems were published by a magazine for teachers.

  I have posted her essay on ‘Maudie Bannister’ as Maudie does rather pre-figure St Trinians.  But the essay does reveal what the literary interests of Kathleen had been.  I do not know if they were the interests of her school friends.  Many of essays recall cricket in the backstreets of Manchester and, if Kathleen is to believed, she might not have done well at school as she was a truant. She, and her straw hat, were a permanent feature of Old Trafford cricket ground where she sat at her favourite spot near the grass roller.  





     On an afternoon in the spring term the new girl, Maudie Bannister, passed a note along the back row of the Upper Fourth which read,  ‘What hero in English Literature would you most like to fall in love with?  Mine is Heathcliff.’

    The question was a startling one but we were not to be outshone,   Six names were returned smartly to Maudie’s desk.  These read:  Sir Lancelot, Mr Rochester, Silas Marner, John Ridd,  Quentin Durwood and King Arthur.  Below King Arthur Dolly Reach had written ‘Who is Heathcliff?’

    Falling in love, until Maudie Bannister came into the Upper Fourth, was an experience which had not yet soared beyond a thrilling exchange of smiles with the boarders of Moat Park College.  Every day the boarders walked in twos past the High School gate wearing dark green caps with silver badges.   The tall boys walked at the front of the precession and the small boys at the back with Mr Buskett, the Housemaster.  Sometimes in the summer the smallest boy had his hand in Mr Buskett’s, but in the winter they all wore their coats turned up round their ears and walked with their hands far down int their pockets.  Each girl in the Upper Fourth had a boarder of her own and was true to him for, at least, one term.  It had not occurred to us, as we went steadily with the English Mistress though ‘Jane Eyre,’ Lorna Doone’ and :Idylls of the King’, to identify ourselves romantically with Rochester’s Jane, John Ridd’s Lorna and Sir Lancelot’s Queen Guinevere.  As Maudie read our choice of heroes it was plain to see, in her look of bored contempt, that one of them was not worth a halfpenny compared with Heathcliff, whoever he might be.

    It is true to say of Maudie Bannister that, by the end of her first week at the High School, she had completely undermined the stability of the Upper Fourth.

    To begin with she had already been to four other schools which made Maudie’s father, who travelled, seem of far greater importance than the more permanently placed fathers.  Maudie had been in love with three Mistresses and had nearly died of love over a Geography Mistress in Bradford.  Maudie wore shanting silk blouses instead of cotton and she was the only girl in the Form to wear a gold wrist watch.  She was poetic, disdainful  - it was because of Maudie’s scorn that we had hidden our Burns and Shakespeare Birthday books - dramatic, and terribly gorgeous to look at.  She had blue-black eyes behind black, fan-shaped lashes and she wore her hair loose, in long ripples, to her waist.  Across her forehead was cut a thick, black, demoralizing fringe.  She was the kind of schoolgirl undreamed of even in the pages of Angela Brazil.

    Fringes were considered by most mothers to be rather bold and indolent-looking.  Hair, at fifteen, must be combed back severely into the less seductive confines of ribbons and slides.  Dolly Reach, it is true, had a fringe but against Maude Bannister’s it was a poor thing indeed.  To make it grow thicker Dolly, encouraged by Maudie, would lick the tip of a finger and then stoke down, for a few minutes each morning-break, the isolated strands until they stuck to her forehead in a damp, forlorn row.

    Another enviable - and quite illogical thing - about Maudie Bannister was that, although she never ate spring greens, she never broke out in spots.  If we were to believe our mothers and the rule of logic the eating of greens every day was a positive spots antidote.  Maudie detested greens and was not made to eat them.   It was a matter of some wonder to the rest of the Upper Fourth that, as each in our turn came to school with a face daubed with camomile lotion, Maudie, with no greens inside her, should remain unblemished.

    But it was not only her watch, her fringe, and her immunity from spots which lifted Maudie magnificently beyond the heroines of ‘For the School Colours’ and ‘The Most Popular Girl in the School’.   Maudie was doing a simply terrific thing.  She was writing a book.   On the afternoon of the note, and after Maudie had ruthlessly dismissed our choice of English Literature heroes, she told us all about it as we sat in a ring on the tennis court.   There were pages and pages of it which she kept hidden at the bottom of her schooling.  The story was to be called ‘Eagle’s Rest’ and it was about winds roaring over the moors and slabs of rock and a great many wicked people dying inside old grey, weatherbeaten houses.  Maudie had drawn a map of the living rooms at ‘Eagle’s Nest - all passages and flagged floors and lattice windows.   There were to be twelve chapters and the hero and heroine’s names were Caroline Thorncliffe and Roderick Nigel Marsh.  Maudie said that ‘Eagle’s Rest’ was twice as passionate as ’Wuthering Heights’.  If  she were not already in love with Heathcliff she would certainly have fallen in love with Roderick who was twice as wild as Heathcliff.  Maudie had actually walked miles across the moors to Wuthering Heights and she had become inspired to write her first chapter of ‘Eagle’s Rest’ sitting in Heathcliff’s stone porch.  One summer holiday, and perhaps on a winter night of snow, she had intended to sleep out on the heather and walk barefoot across the moor to Penistone Crag.  She had read ‘Wuthering Heights’ six times in a year. At this point Maudie extricated from the depths of her schoolbag a battered book from which she read aloud: ‘He’ got onto the bed and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears.  ‘Come in!  Come in!’ he sobbed “Cathy, do come!  - Oh, do - ONCE more.‘   It was very impressive.  ‘That,’ Maudie said, ‘was  Heathcliff at his nicest.  There are some parts a hundred times wilder than that...”

    By the times Maudie Bannister had finished with Heathcliff and ‘Eagle’s Rest’ it was quite clear to the back row of the Upper Fourth that she had every reason to say ‘Rats’ to its choice of tame, milksop heroes.  Not one of us had read Wuthering Heights nor could anyone boast of having been near their hero’s scene of action; although Myfanwy Brent, who had chosen John Ridd, could remember a picnic on Dartmoor, which was not far from Exmoor.  And nobody in or out of English literature had ever stirred us into writing more than two pages for our Friday night composition. Inflamed by Maudie’s Heathcliff, which of us could happily fall in love with Quentin Durwood or Silas Marner.   Even Mr Rochester and John Ridd, who might be said to be of the same calibre as Heathcififf, paled before Maudie’s eloquent adoration.  Dolly Reach was the only one to keep the faith.  If she had to fall in love with someone other than the tallest college boarder, Dolly insisted with spirit, than she would rather chose the brave Sir Lancelot or good, noble King Arthur,

Dec 14th

"It's only a sin if you feel remorse"

By Caducean Whisks

This cropped up last night in a book I'm reading: The Secret History. It was a quote from somewhere else, but having looked for it this morning, I can't find it. 

However, it's been rolling around in my head. 

There's something in that, isn't there. 

1. There are things that are plainly wrong at the time, and you know it. 

2. There are things you might have done with the best of intentions, but with hindsight, it wasn't a good thing.

3. There are things you do without thinking through properly - perhaps carelessness, perhaps other priorities took precedence - and thinking back you may ask yourself, 'Why on earth didn't I see the consequences of that?' and 'How could I have been so stupid?' 

This last one describes many of the things I regret and wish I'd done differently. 

Which of them is a sin? Is a sin an absolute? Or can it be mitigated? And should it be? Is it a moveable thing - in time and place and circumstance? 

And why might remorse alter the definition? It kinda does, doesn't it. 

If you don't know you're doing wrong, is it still wrong? 

All over the world, societies behave differently. What's right and fine in one, is a heinous act in another. Slavery, FGM, capital punishment. Many of our Queens were married at - say - thirteen. Nowadays we'd call that paedophilia. Come to that, aristocratic marriages of the past were usually business arrangements. Some might now class that prostitution.

So can there be an absolute for right and wrong? True for all time and in all circumstances? 

I think not. And to return to the original statement, if you don't feel guilty, was it a sin? Does it only become sinful once you've recognised it as such?

This also suggests that those who feel guilt more often, must intrinsically commit more sin. Which is sort of wrong. But also logical.


Dec 13th

It's the little details that matter

By AlanP

Desperate to revive his falling ratings in the opinion polls the leader of the free world sat in his throne room searching the Twittersphere and all his data feeds for something he could announce to the world and become The Great Donald once more.

After a few minutes he found a report he could use. They couldn’t say this was fake news, it was on the Pentagon Earth Observation daily digest. Eyes only – but what did that matter. Scanning it quickly he composed his tweet, sat back and allowed things to flow.

In the White House Situation Room General McMaster turned to the Chief of staff and sighed, 'I’m not telling him.'

‘No, I’ll do it,’ General Kelly left the room, shoulders slumping.

In the oval office the president glowed orange like a pumkin at Halloween. Great tweet, Kelly. What an announcement. Bound to push my ratings up. Proudly he held out his Samsung S8, proclaiming:

“Elvis spotted on the north pole”

General Kelly slid the print out from the Pentagon report under his nose.

‘Elves, Mr President. Elves; not Elvis.’

Dec 9th


By Mat

Dec 7th

The Great Project

By Edward Picot

The Great Project image

A poem-video about the Blockchain (and computerisation in general). Audio: 'Data Tones' by Brotherprovisional, from Images from Google Images. Text based on a cut-up of blockchain discussion from
YouTube -
Vimeo -
- Edward Picot - personal website

Dec 6th

Edwardian England

By mike


    This is only out of interest and is rather long.  But there are a couple of extracts from an aunt’s essay on childhood - and her first job - which you might find amusing.    How accurate had Forster portrayed England in 1910?   Had Shaw been an influence?

      The final episode of the TV adaption of Forster’s ‘Howard’s End’ was screened on BBC 1 last Sunday.   I had fallen asleep during the first episode which is odd, since I had been looking forward to the adaption.*  I could not really comment, but Catasshe and Edward Piquot have given more reasonable criticisms. I watched subsequent episodes and read the book. 

     I had mentioned an aunt who wrote childrens’ poems and essays on childhood.  She is not so different to many world clouders.  Although she had material published, she lived a life of a suburban housewife. Kathleen had wished to be an actor and her husband had been a drama critic.  They often spoke of their interest in the theatre and Edwardian Manchester. Their memories had been responsible for my own subsequent interest.

    The theatrical company that my uncle remembered is ‘The Birmingham Rep’ which had been the most inventive theatre in England during the Edwardian period. The ‘rep’ has a website which rather suggests the ‘Birmingham Rep’ is the ‘National Theatre’ for the north of England. 

   The Schlegel sisters - Margaret and Helen - in ‘Howard’ End’ were among the artistic avant guarde of their time.  Their English aunt, Mrs Munt. comments on her nieces’ clever talk.’ 

    Helen mentions that she had read Checkov.  For some reason, Forster does not mention Ibsen who would seem more appropriate playwright.  In one of the closing scenes, Mr Wilcox and Margaret confront each other.  Mr Wilcox berates Margaret beginning with ‘Dear you know I am not one of your Bernard Shaws who consider nothing sacred...’

    ‘Major Barbara’ was first performed in 1905 but Shaw’s theories were well known outside the theatre as he published the plays with long prefaces outlining his - and the characters’ viewpoints - which often coincided.

   “Major Barbara’ is the daughter of a weapons’ industrialist. She joins the Salvation Army in opposition to her father’s way of life, though he runs a utopian village for his workers on the lines of Owen.  In some respects, Major Barbara is similar to Helen in her attitude to poor folk and the moral responsibility of doing good.   Female characters in other of his plays are somewhat similar. ‘Pygmalion’ was first performed in 1913, Shaw intended Eliza to leave ‘Enry ‘Iggins’ at the end of the play. He  objected to a more favourable ending - marriage’

   The ‘Birmingham Rep’ was the company responsible for introducing Checkov, Ibsen and Stringberg to an English audience along with the theatrical techniques of the Russians.   ‘The Birmingham Rep’ is mentioned in Holroyd’s biography of Shaw.

   Kathleen ends her series of childhood essays when she leaves school.  These essays were written after the second world war when she attended Naomi Lewis’s classes at the City Lit in London.  There is a wiki on Naomi Lewis which recalls her influence on children’s literature.  I have gone to City Lit classes myself on the encouragement of my aunt.

   One of her final essays recalls her first job:  ‘My first Job - philanthropy.‘  I wonder if Shaw might be a ghost hidden in this essay? 

   Forster does not mention the Schlegel sisters’ education but I wonder if Helen might have received a similar school report?  Helen’s father had died but could she have stood in trepidation as the report was considered by her elder sister, Margaret.  Is this a suitable report for a wannabe actress or writer?  This is rather fanciful as the sisters were from the upper class and lived on unearned income. Their education is unknown, but their brother was at Oxbridge.


    ‘.....There was every reason to suppose, at seventeen, that I was particularly barren of scholarship.  Reports at the end of each term had proved more and more remarkable.  Standing squarely on the drawing-room carpet my father would enumerate, not without melancholy, the many failures set out before him.  It was, indeed, a gloomy list; yet, I fancied, not without its flavour of the spectacular.

   The report of my last term was of an especially provocative nature. That I should acquire, in one examination, no marks out of a hundred for geometry, no marks out a hundred for latin, did not disturb me.  For Latin, algebra and geometry I utterly despised. Nor did it surprise me - for I could never resist turning blots into spiders - to hear my father read out the remark of the from mistress, Miss Inglis: ”I cannot even give you one for neatness, Kathleen.”   What did astonish me was the summing up of Miss Fenwick, the headmistress who, hoping no doubt to lessen the blow to my father, had written at the bottom of the report, ‘Kathleen has tried.’  A statement which, though causing even more despondency and ridicule among the family, I was wise enough not to contradict.  The knowledge that my brother had passed with casual ease through Higher School Certificate and that our sister was now about to enter college did nothing but heighten my own shortcomings.  Even the delirious news that I had been selected as centre-forward in the hockey match between Cheshire and the Rest, and that I could now recite from memory the whole of Scene 1 Act 1V from King John was not considered recompense to put me back in the family favour.

   It was then that my father decided I was to become a philanthropist and, a few evenings later, I learned there  was a job waiting for me in Manchester.  What brought him to this decision I cannot say, unless it was that I always had a passion for wheeling out other peoples babies......’


      Kathleen is dispatched to a society who cared for slum children.  She recalls her visit to the society’s offices and her first day at work.   It is  pity that she had taken elocution lessons as she could well recall the Manchester poor.  But look at the  references to literature!


       “...But now a time had come when, exalted to  nothing less than an Angel of Mercy, I was to become an invaluable part of its streets and tramcars.  Wearing the wasp coat  - at the last moment my mother had removed from its lapel a badge marked Games Captain without which I thought no coat could be complete - and a little yellow hat with  a brim turned up like a halo,  feeling exuberantly official and rather holy, I  set out on a crisp winter  morning towards the tram-lines where even the trams seemed to have taken on an unsuspected gaiety as they rollicked and tinkled their way to Manchester. 

      I was to look for the Children’s Aid Society in Deansgate, off Cross Street.  (It is sad to think now that I must have walked past Cross Street Chapel, unmoved. Apart from acting as Miss Pole in ‘Cranford’ at school I know nothing then of Mrs Gaskell.  When I visited my grandfather at Knutsford, every Christmas, I did not know that Mrs Gaskell had also lived there.)

     The head quarters of the Society was in a long grey street, solemn with pot hats and business houses.  The office was at the top of four flights of stone steps.  Hollow in the stomach, I knocked twice.  “Come in,” said a thin, neat voice.   On the wall, above her head, was a street map showing, like a black snake, the Manchester Ship Canal.   A pale lady was seated at a table pinning labels on woollen garments. There were some ledgers and a high stool.  Beneath a map of Manchester voluntary  ladies were writing out reports.  It was all, as I hoped, very Dickensian.  “I am Miss Treffie,” said the pale lady,  “and you, I understand, are our new worker?”   Oh, yes, indeed I was.  “Did I realise the nature of the work?”  I knew every beautiful moment by heart.  A thousand times had I seen myself, an angel of the streets, watching at the bedside of innumerable Paul Dombeys or, like Little Nell, bringing a saintly comfort to some old, unwanted grandfather.  How often had I dreamed, out of my two-and sixpence a week, of providing a Christmas dinner for a family not unlike the Cratchitts.  Miss Treffie gave a sharp little cough.  “Your work,” she went on, “will take you into the slum areas of the city.  You will inspect clothing and take particular notice of home conditions.  Bedding, for instance.”   Miss Treffie smiled companiably.  “Tact, of course, is very essential.   Have you ever seen a bug?” she added, giving me a darting glance. 

   A  determination not to seem lacking any respect at my first interview outran my sense of proportion. O, yes, yes,  I had often seen bugs - I had seen thousands of them.  “ah --,” said Miss Treffie.  She handed me a list of street names, a map of Manchester, and a tram guide.   “Have you no handbag?” she enquired. A  handbag?  To explain that I had nothing but contempt for handbags, seemed, at this moment, ill-timed and highly suspect.  “It is essential to carry some kind of handbag,” said Miss Treffie crisply.   Then, pointing to the map on the wall, “and now for your first visit.”   I must take no notice of dogs, husbands or queer smells.  If a door should be slammed in my face - well, some people could, indeed, be very trying.  “This afternoon you will go to Mrs Maconachie in Greengate.”

    It was an experience of pure joy when - the maps, tram guides and addresses stowed neatly under my arm, for at the time I had a bitter scorn of handbags - I picked out from all the Deansgate trams my own particular number.   It was to take me to the doorstep of the first address written out by the pale lady on a stiff, green card.  Shall I shall I ever forget Mrs Maconochie  at Number 27 Upper Paradise Street?

      The map and address book stowed carefully in the bosom of the black and yellow coat - I thought wistfully of Mrs Maconachie sitting in a dark, chilly hovel by the bedside of a fast-sinking child, a black Lancashire shawl pulled tightly round her emaciated shoulders as she waited patiently for me to arrive. And as I rode on the top of the tram, no longer a schoolgirl harassed by end-of-term reports but an Angel of Providence embarked on her first visitation, the streets of Greengate loomed dark with mysticism against the Manchester sky

    If I was prepared - indeed armed - in spirit for the sensational it was not of the kind that met my eyes before Mrs Maconachie’s front door.  Mrs Maconachie, a broad, jolly-faced woman, was cleaning her second floor window.  She was sitting out of the sill overhanging the pavement, the window shut tightly across her thighs.  It seemed a precarious and exceedingly dramatic position to be in.  “Wait a minute,  luv,” she shouted, “go on in th’house, I’ll be done soon...”

    In the kitchen, a little boy with a bandaged hand was licking condensed milk out of a tin. There was no sign of a sick bed to be seen.  It was all very disillusioning.  Mrs Maconachie bustled in with a pail of water.  “Now, sit yer down and mak’ thisen at ‘ome.  Eh, but they’ve no reet to send one so young as thisen into them mucky streets.  Draw up to the fire, luv.  Mebbe thi’d like a cup of tea.  It’s on the brew.’  Mrs Maconachie dropped three large teaspoonsful of condensed milk into a strong, brown liquid.  ‘Coom on now, luv - draw up.”

    It was some time before I could put to her the exact nature of my visit.  ‘Aye, it’s our Ernie,” she nodded sagely,  “been in th’ospital.  Fell out of upstair winder, “e did an’ all.  Thowt ‘e were a dead un when we picked ‘im up.  Theel ‘ave come to see about his new clouts for convilessing.  Eh, they’re s reet good lot, them Manchester Ladies.”

    Thoughts of Miss Treffie stirred me to action.  “And to inspect the bedding,” I hurriedly explained, “The Home Conditions, you know.”   My courage rose with recovered sense of authority.  “Have you, by chance, any bugs?”  I asked boldly.  It was Mrs Maconachie’s turn to look surprised.  “Boogs?” said Mrs Maconachie, “boogs?”  She gave a loud chuckle.  “Eh, now, luv - you ARE a one for merriment, and no mistake...”

   I left her lustily swilling down her ground floor window.  Ernie was sailing his empty milk tin in the gutter.  The streets of Greengate seemed hard with realism as I waited for the tram.  No longer did I walk on air, borne up on the magnanimous wings of philanthropy.  And yet, perhaps,  tomorrow......For a moment a vision of little Paul Dombey gave a lustre to the pavement.


*I have a social life of no consequence, but on enquiring, I found others had  switched off during the first episode because of the  poor sound.  I don’t know if that was why the production did not hold my attention.


Getting Published


Visitor counter



Blog Roll Centre


Blog Hints

Blog Directory