The first butterfly

When I moved to my little crone cottage here in Picton (tucked in between Toxteth and Edge Hill, in May 2019, my “garden” was a square of paving stones, with a border of gravel, a large Yukka and a golden tree of some kind.

By October, I had begun to add the odd pot, and a plastic greenhouse.

Now, as the pandemic enters its 7th month, and I am into my 6th month of lockdown, it is a chaotic and beautiful mess of random flowers, bushes, trees and vegetables.

A tour of my garden

In case you are wondering, I’ve been ‘shielding’ since mid-March, when my son Roderick suggested it. And on the day after the government said we should all come out of our protective burrows, it was announced that there was a worrying rise in Covid-19 cases in the suburb which borders mine – just a block away. So here I stay. And thank goodness for the garden.

And for writing, and singing, and tap-dancing, and friends on Skype and teaching on Google Meet. Never a dull moment here in Heathcote Close.

Which doesn’t mean I’m happy with the situation. Just stoic. Occasionally I write a silly little ditty, to keep myself amused. Here’s one from April.

Fairy Bessie performs The Happy Song

In May, the country celebrated the end of World War II, standing in doorways, or windows, with flags waving and socially distanced street parties. Not me, however. I did not find it a cause for celebration, but rather one for contemplation. Indeed, it made me very, very angry and upset, so I wrote a poem.

Now it is August, and – wonder of wonders – a butterfly. The first one I’ve seen here, in my garden. This makes me very happy.

Speckled Wood. I looked it up. Apparently they live in hedgerows, so it is quite a long way from home. But it came to my garden, which brings joy to my heart.

Even more joy arrived 2 weeks ago, in the form of my beautiful granddaughter, Sophia. Mum, Dad and Sophia all doing well, if exhausted.

Thank you. Stay safe.

Still May

Today began ok, but pretty soon descended into one of those pity parties you really don’t want to invite people to. So, against all reason and common sense, when I couldn’t stop crying, crying, crying (oh how boring!) I started talking to myself, and then I recorded myself talking to myself. So this is a podcast with a difference.

I am terrified that if anyone does listen to it, they will feel obliged to send me heart-warming verses of sentimental poetry, or inspirational quotations. Please don’t. Just let me know if you understand what it’s like, and that you, like me, are ok. Coping. Not brilliantly, but coping. If that is the best that we can do, let us do it the best we can.

As a wise man once said to me, “if you’ve only got 30% of your best, give 100% of that 30%”

Deep breath in order to breathe out, aaaaand – go…

working on coping strategy

It’s May!

It’s a Windy Face Day

Stories about centenarians walking up and down their gardens, nonagenarians climbing up and down steps are so inspiring. I’m all in favour of them raising as much money for the NHS as they possibly can.

Meantime, I’m a septuagenarian (a mere babe by comparison) fund raiser, but I also come into the category of freelance performer/theatre-maker who has lost my music festival and fringe festival gigs, not eligible for any government assistance, now in self-isolation and doing anything I can to keep up my skills, while sharing a bit of love and laughter in an attempt to raise some funds for my local children’s hospital charity.

It occurs to me that I cannot be the only one in this situation!  I’m not a celebrity/famous actor or singer sharing free performances for their fans.  I am your run of the mill jobbing actor/singer-songwriter/clown surviving on the aged pension, and anticipating the reality of being stuck in this situation for months, if not years to come, if I want to stay fit and healthy to see my grandkids grow up.

I’ve put callouts on all my Facebook performer type groups, to find some other pensioner performers taking action to contribute in some way.  No response so far. Maybe there’s a journalist who might see this as a story with some potential, and be able to do the research to find the rest of my ‘mob’ #pensionerperformerstakingaction is my suggested hashtag.

I decided to take part in the London Marathon’s #TwoPointSixChallenge, and chose tap-dancing as my fitness regime – something I hadn’t done since I was 8 years old. I’m posting short videos every day, about to record Day 14 this afternoon. They are all up on the donation website:  I would be eternally grateful if you would share the link, help me to reach my target, and help the charity to continue its support of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

It occurs to me there may be another story here. I’ve been advised by a few friends that people are reluctant to donate to the VirginMoneyGiving site, because – you know – Richard Branson.  I can sympathise. However, I’ve checked out  a few fund raising websites, and this one is the only one, as far as I can make out, that does NOT charge the charities to register, and that has waived all fees for this campaign.

And I’ll be raising a glass of the red stuff to you all, but not till I’ve done today’s tap dancing challenge. Don’t want to embarrass myself even more, or be a burden to the NHS  by falling over!


May I

May I be

May I be well

May I be well enough

May I be well enough to

May I be well enough to be

May I be well enough to be still

May I be well enough to be still useful

May I be well enough to be still useful enough

May I be well enough to be still useful enough to

May I be well enough to be still useful enough to help

May I be well enough to be still useful enough to help you

May I be well enough to be still useful enough to help you through

May I be well enough to be still useful enough to help you through to

May I be well enough to be still useful enough to help you through to

The end of May.

Experiment: Journal, Day 1

The View from Over The Hill

Day one of journaling!

Decided to jot down what I’ve just been doing today, so that I don’t forget how industrious I can be if I try.

So, first thing, I made the bed. That’s ok, eh? Got dressed, left my hair alone. No make-up, so must remember not to video myself today.

Checked on the garden, all good. Found that ‘double daffodil’ or is it a Jonquil? tipped over, so I snipped it and brought it in to play with its friends.

It has the most exquisite, delicate perfume.

Those are tomato seeds under the cling film next to it.  And the perfume is Ralph Lauren Safari, which they don’t make any more, so I bought that bottle years ago on eBay, and it was already well past its best, so now it is an ornament.

I brought in from the ‘garden shed’ (a cupboard by the front door) the plastic bag I’ve been dumping stuff in ever since I moved here last May. Found some tiny bulbs, some of them rotten but others desperately sprouting pale and wan leaves, and I’ve popped them into a pot. I repotted the beautiful flowering plant that Sarah brought for me when she came to work on her audition monologue – she was accepted into ALRA North’s MA Professional Acting course next academic year!

I listened dutifully to Radio 4 and the news, wondering when and if a State of Emergency, or Martial Law (whatever they call it here) will be declared, and having more sympathy than I ever thought I would for those nation states who have ever declared it, in this ‘war’ or any other. Who would have thought so many people would be so stupid? Me. That’s who.

Turned over to Radio 6Music, and had a jolly good bop in the kitchen to Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Boney M.

Now I’m tucking into my incredibly healthy breakfast, of muesli-with-extra-rolled-oats-and-almonds, a dash of milk and a topping of home-made yoghurt.  I’ve made my second cup of coffee, and left it, forgotten, in the kitchen. The first one was abandoned, pouring all over the worktop because I’d left the machine on while I took stuff back to the garden shed. Hang on.

There it is. Lovely. Just needed a wee zap in the microwave. This one had been forgotten because my phone tinged, and it was Morag Stark sending me a daft wee video on WhatApp. Comedian @JaneyGodley has taken video of Nicola Sturgeon advising Scotland how to behave and added her own voice doing a creditable Nicola Sturgeon, only speaking in much broader Scots and making the message much more hilariously powerful.

I’ve forwarded it on to a few specially selected friends. I hate the mass sharings, when you know the sender has just hit “send to all my contacts”. I delete those immediately. Just so you know.

Already, I’ve heard back from three of my actual friends, who’ve enjoyed the video and asked how I’m doing. Conversations. That’s what it’s all about.

Now I’m doing this. Which has exhausted its usefulness, for now.

Catch you later. Stay at home. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. (If you’ve been doing a lot of online communication lately, via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, whatever, you’re probably noticing, as I am, just how often we touch our faces).

Message to self: Don’t do it. Even if you are socially distanced. It’s an unconscious habit, and you’ll do it when it’s dangerous if you don’t lose the habit.

10:04 am Tuesday 24th March, 2020.  Not dead yet.

For all the mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, and about to be mothers. As someone who spent half her life avoiding her mother, and the other half learning how to appreciate her, with all her strengths and flaws, I have been astonished at how much I miss her, now she’s gone. This is a song I wrote for a show about 15 years before she died, while I was still in the ambivalent stage. It took another few years before I realised it had all come true – for me. I’m not the greatest singer, as you know, but you may enjoy the song. Listen here, or you will find it on Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer et al in the album “Yes! Because… the songs”

Stranger Times…

Yes, they certainly are. And actually dangerous times, whether it’s Corvid-19 or the panic merchants who would profit from it, so be safe out there.

I’m sticking close to home in the meantime, working on my new show – the one I was going to perform extracts from at Threshold Festival of Music & Arts 2020 at the beginning of April. I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t get postponed, at the very least. And if it doesn’t, I’m going to have to withdraw anyway. Performing in a tiny crowded venue (assuming there is an audience!) is not advised for people of my great age!

So I’m just back from a walk in the park.

Here’s a wee podcast I recorded as I walked.

I added the birds I could hear as I walked home. Gorgeous.

Now I’m going to sit and knit (new grandchild on the way), and listen to my great nephew Daniel Puusaari’s band Cub Scouts. Cool tunes.

Stay safe and be nice to each other, eh?

I’m not dead yet…

My new home – and garden!

It’s been a while, I know, but I’m back, and I have stuff to share. First off, I have a new home. From my tiny eyrie in the city centre, I’ve now relocated to an actual HOUSE (albeit a tiny one) a couple of miles further out. But still close enough. And it has an actual garden. Well, a yard really, but places to put pots outside.

So. Today I spent good money getting involved in a course to learn about how to set up an online course. I’d already attended the introductory webinar, and this lady Jeanine Blackwell really knows her stuff and communicates it well, so why not follow her example? No good reason why not, so I’m doing it.

I’ve decided it’s time to get serious about having a career, if not an income, after the past six months of leaping about the countryside and across the Atlantic (twice!) pretending that I’m actually retired, and that I have an income. All pretence is done. There is no escaping the fact that I don’t have an income, and I’ve no actual desire to be retired!

And I’m so serious about it, that I tidied the table (my one and only, hence it is also desk, dining table and TV stand), put on my new smart shoes, made a lovely flat white (AeroPress, also highly recommended) and settled down to follow the instructions to get started. Session 1 gets down and dirty straight away, with instructions and advice about where to start, what pitfalls to avoid when starting, and how to proceed from that starting point. At the end of Session 1, I set about doing some research – forgetting that research almost inevitably leads to rabbit holes. However! The beauty of rabbit holes is that they don’t (necessarily) cost any money. And when I finally remembered that one of the resources which IS recommended is to join the local Chamber of Commerce, I was so thrilled with myself that I tried to join online straight away, even though it was going to cost me LOTS of money.

The universe, however, had other plans for me. Their website wouldn’t let me pay, and when I phoned up for assistance I was told they couldn’t help me till Monday. Apparently the business community representatives knock off early on Fridays. That’s a good sign, isn’t it?

Meantime, I’m enjoying my new furniture. At last, I have an armchair, a gift from one of my sons, and a futon for guests to come and sleepover.

Let me know if you’re passing through Liverpool!


What a day! Sun is shining, flat is clean and sort of tidy, I’ve done my workout, my singing practice, my ukulele practice for our LiveKennedys gig next weekend, figured out what I’m doing at tomorrow’s Open Mic in West Kirby for the Liverpool Equity meet and greet.

Photo Journal Part II – My Tiree Holiday

Time to share my holiday snaps before I forget I ever had one! I’ve also included a few memories from previous stays on the island.

My beloved sister-in-law, Mabel Macarthur, had invited me to spend a few days with her on the Isle of Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, after Roddy and Arwen’s wedding.

Mabel and me

Mabel and I set off in a taxi to Oxenholme Station, train to Glasgow Central, taxi to Buchanan Street bus station, bus to Glasgow Airport, plane to Tiree. And that’s when the photos begin, as the plane begins its descent to The Reef, (i.e. the airport) on Tiree.

Weather wasn’t great, but it was lovely to catch my first sight of the island after a couple of years.

First night, Mabel treated me to dinner at the Lodge Hotel, where we sat in the window overlooking Gott Bay – memories of Iain and Roddy learning to jet-ski (circa 1985) .

Next, getting acquainted with Jack the golden labrador. What a sweetheartThis is taken in Mabel’s conservatory. Wait till you see the view..

Looking past Fiona (Mabel’s daughter, my niece) and Ewan Malcolm’s house, towards Kenavara.


Tiree has three high points, Ben Hough – which Mabel’s house sits at the foot of; Kenavara, and Ben Hynish, seen below.

Spot the bucky ball on top.  This is part of the UK’s defence system, and the first point of reference for cross Atlantic aircraft coming over from North America. I lost a lovely earring walking up there once.

Moving round to the other side of the house, this is what sits beyond the garden.

What looks like a scraggly wood at the top of the rise is actually a stand of thistles.

Next day, the weather was wonderful, so Jack and I set off to see the sea.  The route we took, following the first available turning past Fiona’s house heading towards the coast, threatened to lead us up to the top of Ben Hough, which my tired bones weren’t in the mood for.

So what we actually saw were loads of lovely wild flowers, and a broken but heavily padlocked gate.

The next day, with the weather still more gloriously warm and sunny than anything I remembered from my time on Tiree back in the 1970s, when the boys were babies, Jack and I hit the road again. 



Here’s a map of the island to help you orientate yourself. You’ll probably have to zoom in to follow it. Ben Hough is on the west, toward the top. Gott Bay is the large sandy beach on the east, towards the top, facing south east. Most of the bays have gorgeous fine white sand, here indicated in gold; the other, mostly smaller ones are littered with beautiful smooth pebbles of all sizes.

Where was I?  Oh yes, day 2, heading north from Hough with Jack, determined to see the sea.

Some neighbours came down to the roadside for a chat as we wandered past.

And of course, more wildflowers.

Balevullin is more densely populated than Hough, with what looks, from a distance, like actual trees. But don’t be mislead, there are no trees on Tiree, just a few sheltered, very bushy tall bushes. 

Panoramic shot, distorting the bend in the road, but hopefully giving an idea of the landscape.

Can you believe the colour of the water there?  That’s the Atlantic Ocean, looking pretty much due north. The walk back was much faster than the walk there, expedited by a strong wind at my back. Ah, yes, I remember it well. 

I often used to walk down to Balevullin from Cornaigmore to visit my friends Doris and Skye Mary.  Here are a few memories from those days. (You may need to click on each image to see each next one – I’m trialing a new Gallery plugin.)

Day 3: Jack and I walked south, this time to Kilkenneth, where I picked up some pebbles, just for old times sake. A couple of them made it back to Liverpool, now gracing my pot plants.

 Heading to the seaside, looking due west.   And here’s Jack, enjoying his stroll, with Ben Hough to the north in the background.

Thursday evening was the Tiree Association Annual Concert, newly re-instituted after a five year break, so I was extremely lucky. It was an absolute joy, a feast of local talented singers and musicians performing tradition music

On my last full day, we picked up my order of lobster from Fraser’s (one of Fiona’s sons) fish van, beautifully prepared by his partner Ruth, and also paid a visit to the Balinoe graveyard, overlooking Soroby Bay, where Mabel and I set some flowers for our husbands Donnie and Donneil.  In the evening, Fiona laid on a banquest – with contributions from all of the family, and there were babies to entertain us, and much laughter.

Cousins! Caitlin and Amy

Great Aunt Flloyd and Great-grandmother Mabel with the two newest members of this side of the family.

Ewan’s dog desperately trying to photo-bomb the family portrait

And here is Mabel with Fiona, her two sons Iain and Fraser, and their daughters Caitlin and Amy. 4 generations. Incidentally Morven, Fiona’s daughter, is expecting her first in October.

Saturday, the wind and rain arrived full force, and for a while there was a suspicion that the plane might not make it – but it did. Here is what it looked, and felt like leaving Tiree once again.

The twin-engined Otter is similar to the one I used to travel in about 150 years ago between Milne Bay to Port Moresby in Papua to and from boarding school.

I’ve created a short movie, covering the return to Liverpool, and put it up on Youtube.

And that’s all folks…



Photo Journal Part 1 – The Wedding

August already – how did that happen? Silly question. As some of you may have noticed, I took a break from Facebook for 10 days or so. An experiment in several ways, but mostly an attempt to be true to my principles, and boycott the dastardly thing. I detest its organisational structure, its business model, its total lack of any kind of ethics or morality and most of all its ability to suck us into dependence on it. Instead of posting every second thought and experience as it happened, and spending hours reading what people I barely know are saying and thinking, I decided to create a photo journal for these 10 days, and share that with people I do actually know and care about. I’ll put a link on Facebook as well, because there are people who come into that category who still only communicate via Facebook. I’m hoping that will change, but not ‘holding my breath’. So there I was, sitting on the train, about to cross the border from Scotland back into England.  The big adventure of Roderick and Arwen’s wedding had been and gone, and so had my mini-break on the Isle of Tiree with my sister-in-law Mabel Macarthur.  Rather than writing up my blog/journal at reasonable intervals, of course I left it till the adventure was almost over!  Then, having made a start, Virgin West Coast Train’s wifi crashed, and I was left to ‘consider my options’. I’ve been back in Liverpool amost a week now; marvellous how life takes over. But I’ll have a go at re-tracing my steps in an attempt to share the adventure with you all. This is Part 1, The Wedding. First off, before I left, I set up the self-watering system for my houseplants. The next morning I found a huge puddle on the floor, as you can see the lengths of string are drooping between the bottle of water and the plants, hence proving the drip principle does work, but it’s more effective if the water actually drips into the pot!
First, setting up the automatic watering system for my indoow garden
I also spent the evening packing and baking, making Lamingtons to help out with the snacks for the guests after the wedding ceremony.
This is an Aussie favourite, squares of plain sponge cake dipped (or in my case soaked) in chocolate icing and rolled in chocolate.  I also made some Anzac biscuits and my first ever successful batch of shortbread.
My first successful batch of Shortbread
Roddy and I drove up to the Lake District together in his lovely hire car on Thursday afternoon, arriving just in time to enjoy a single malt on the terrace of the Cragwood Country House Hotel, overlooking Lake Windermere, on a gorgeous clear blue skied evening, with Adele and Gerry Grodstein from New Jersey. (My elder son Iain’s in-laws). On Friday morning we met up with Arwen and her family (who’d come in from the Isle of Wight, Home Counties and New Zealand) for the rehearsal.  Iain had arrived (from Seattle) with his wife Jessie and the grandchildren Owen and Natalie the night before, and the twisty, windy roads up the lake to the church managed to lose them. Meantime, in my efforts to connect with them – no phone reception where the church is – I had an adventure climbing up the hill behind the village trying to get some ‘3’ bars on my phone, where I was rescued by a very kind couple who pointed out that this was Vodafone territory, and let me call Iain on their landline. They also treated me to a history lesson about the origins of the church, the glacier traces in the hill behind their house, and the local farmers’ concerns about the drought. That sorted, Roddy found me some lunch and a taxi to take me to Oxenholme station to collect my sister-in-law, Roddy and Iain’s Aunt Mabel, travelling down from the Isle of Tiree. Next up, the boat trip on the lake. Roddy and Arwen had booked a boat to take us all for an hour’s run on the water, with Prosecco and juice and snacks galore, and much laughter.
Roderick offers Adele a glass of bubbly, while Albert and Arwen hand out food
Mabel and me
Iain, Jessie and Natalie
Arwen’s brother Alister photo-bombing the group shot. I love this one!
After some shenanigans, the boat skipper finally got this one, with everyone
Back on land, we enjoyed a lovely bar meal in the hotel, (did I mention, they’d booked the whole hotel for the weekend!), took a stroll in the grounds as the light was fading – around 10.30 in the evening. And then, a really comfy bed, and a great night’s sleep for me, before the big day dawned.

Wedding of the year

Saturday arrived with a fair amount of cloud cover, just enough blue sky to make for great photos. It was warm and delightful as more and more friends and relatives arrived. I’ll try to keep my commentary to a minimum, and let the pictures do the talking.
Roderick (the Bridegroom), Owen (Groomsman) and Iain (Best Man)
Mabel and Adele flaunting fabulous fascinators
Jessie, Iain’s wife, with her sister Lauren, mother of Natey and Penelope.
Jessie and Lauren make all those fascinator experiments of mine worth while! Roderick’s friends and work colleagues made the trip. I didn’t manage to photograph them all, but here are a few
Steve, Adele, John and Kate – part of the Liverpool contingent
Betty and Wayne, Chloe and Mike, Baltic Creative folk
St Peter’s is a beautiful little parish church, built in 1873-4, paid for by the owner of the nearby Bobbin Mill. Natalie leads the bridesmaids down the aisle.
The vows.
Yes, I cried. We all traipsed over to the Village Hall which had been decked out with Arwen’s beautifully crafted bunting and balloons and flowers. Wendy’s gorgeous sandwiches and snacks went down a treat, and my goodies disappeared pretty quickly too. I enjoyed my ride back to the hotel in the limo with the groomsmen and ushers, but the bride and groom had an a royal return to the hotel in this little gem, being waved and cheered on their way as they drove through Bowness. Adele Grodstein managed to capture this image (below) of the bridal party arriving back at the hotel I couldn’t resist including this one, of Natalie and Owen relaxing outside the hotel after the wedding.   And then there was the reception – the Wedding Breakfast.  I didn’t take any photos during the meal, or the speeches, but I can tell you the food was tasty, and plentiful, and beautifully presented, the crackers – also handmade by Arwen, burst and cracked fabulously, and the speeches were, without exception, stunningly generous, funny and moving. Of course I cried. Later in the evening, as a very fine Manchester rock band kept the floors bouncing fabulously, Mabel and Adele and I discovered some fun, self-entertaining accoutrements that Arwen had set up in the bar. And there was more… Giant Sparklers out on the terrace after dark, for children of all ages. I had a bit of a jig to the band playing some of my fave hits from the 60s before finally crashing out just after midnight. The Day After Sunday saw the departure of the US contingent. So sad to see them go, but very very grateful for the brief time I had with them all. Look carefully at that image above.  Natey (aged 11, Owen’s cousin) and Owen (aged 12) reading actually newspapers. I call this “Hope for the Future of Humanity”. Left to right, back row first: Adele, Flloyd*, Iain, Jessie, Mabel, Jerry Natey, Owen, Natalie. (*Footnote: I recently discovered that I look much, much better in photos – and even in the mirror – when I smile. Thanks to the Grodsteins for teaching me that) Part 2 continues next time, the Tiree Holiday.    

occasional thoughts of Flloyd Kennedy, for anyone who might be interested