Spanish Water Dog

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 19 July 2014

It felt like we were in Rome. The heat of the sun, 'people watching' from our little table. The Italian café served up a perfect creamy latté and a strong Americano for Gods Gift.

Maximus, a Spanish Water dog, settled down next to me. His soft, curly coat brushing against my bare legs. His fur was like my mothers hair, all soft and curly.

I was born with more hair than a Caribbean Weave shop. I was very dark, very round with a copious barnet. As a child, running wild in Aldgate, then Borehamwood, the locals nicknamed me the Wild Woman of Borneo.

Aged five my older brother wanted to help my mother out so he sat me in a chair, and using a pair of pinking shears cut off all my curls. That night my mother screamed as clumps of hair fell around her feet, all those luscious baby curls gone for ever.

It grew back quickly, still does after a cut. I was the fifties child with a fringe and a bob. There's a photograph of me, seriously concentrating as I played my castanets in the school orchestra. Downturned mouth, skin as dark as a nut, my hair shiny and neat.

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Her Hymn

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 12 July 2014

I love Hymns.

My mothers favourite was 'To be a Pilgrim'.

I loved the rousing chorus of 'Eternal Father', or the ridiculously lush 'I Vow to Thee my Country'. I was invited, aged 15, to play the grand piano in the school assemblies.

The whole school would await my introductions, but my finger work on 'Jerusalem' left a lot to be desired. The majestic octaves going down the scale on another hymn I can't remember the name of, always sounded like a Les Dawson/Eric Morcambe medley. I had all the correct notes but not necessarily in the right order. Nobody laughed my fervour was far too strong to mock.

Growing up in the East End I was just one of the many Jews who went to Canon Barnet Junior school next to Toynbee Hall and a short walk from Aldgate East tube. Trendsville now but back then it served the local immigrant community, which in the main was poor and unfamiliar with the book of 'Ancient and Modern Hymns'.

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The rise of the unaffordable

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 30 June 2014

I walked from Clapham South in the sunshine.

Through Nappy Valley with their Rolls Royce push-chairs and £2.2 million houses. Past the builders building basements, past the builders building conservatories, past the builders who are putting in loft extensions. All the time wondering how the other half live. The ones who have to wait for their evicton notices as Tory landowners claim back their estates.

I walked down Northcott Road with more house sellers than fishmongers.

Down to Lavender Hill and The Junction. A new bendy café on the corner, since the riots, serving up 57 varieties of coffee whilst the unemployable drift past waiting for the dregs.

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Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 21 June 2014

The longest day. Midsummer celebrations in Sweden and four of us had a table in the sun in Brighton.

In 1976 we took a 'play' to Sweden.

From Gothenburg to Uppsala, from Umea to Lund. But not necessarily in that order.

Umea was freezing and got dark at 2.30 in the afternoon. Lund was dreamy.

We travelled down, over night, from the frozen north on the Orient Express. It was a sleeper. We each had white linen sheets on our perfectly prepared banquettes. But I never slept in mine, nor he his.

God's Gift had joined the company.

As the train chuntered out of Umea we started talking. For 716 miles we carried on the conversation. We stood outside our wooden cabins as the train racketed down the East of Sweden. The rest of the company slept as we whispered our way towards our future.

By the time we arrived in Lund you would have thought we would have ceased our talking but we didn't.

Those unmade beds were testimony to our all night chat.

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Sole food

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 4 June 2014

I have red ones, blue ones, green ones and beige.

Black ones, brown ones, patent ones and suede .

I have leather ones, canvas ones, strappy ones and flip-flops,

Wedges, sling backs, sandals, pumps, stilettos, boots and clip-clops.

I have ankle boots, deck shoes, espadrilles and sneakers.

Flat ones, high ones, platform ones and peep toes .

But I wasn't always that well heeled.

Shoes lasted until they didn't. You got what you were given. And you were grateful for it.

As we waited for the tube train, I would tightly grasp my mothers fingers as I stared at the advert on the wall of Aldgate East Station. Two children holding hands as they set off, in their Start Rite shoes, with nothing but each other and a road disappearing into the distance, winding its way to their future. How lonely life looked.

Start Rite shoes, with it's Royal seal of approval walking their way to happiness since 1792.

Shoes, played a big part in my childhood. From the ballet shoes I yearned for and never got, to the Gum boots, black rubber, which kept the rain out and the cold in.

Now as I walk the lanes I wear a pair of purple 'Nike Free Three' trainers. They are falling apart but are oh so comfortable. They have a rip in the back but my feet can feel the ground. For my 65th birthday the dawter bought me a pair of luminous orange replacements. They are slightly wider so my old feet can spread and spread. I wear them for best.

I have black and white trainers, pink and grey trainers and flip flops. My father would have had something to say about that.

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Renée's Preserve.

Posted by Jeni in | 2 June 2014

On October 26th, 1956 my family moved into a three bedroomed house in Boreham Wood, Hertfordshire.

Twenty eight years later on October 26th, 1984 I moved into a three bedroom cottage in East Sussex.

I was seven when the Red Army rolled into Hungary, leaving the Communists in my family reeling from Soviet tyranny.

When we unpacked our tea chests in 1984 Stephanie Fae Beauclair was receiving the heart of a baboon. I don't know who she is either. Another moral dilemma.

My father was driving the removal van, my mother navigating us up the A1.

My brother and I were instructed to stay seated on the kitchen chairs, next to the formica table, in the back of the van. As we unwrapped our liver wurst sandwiches wrapped up in the Daily Worker, we swung from the right to the left, skidding through the rest of the furniture, of which there wasn't much.

We arrived. 197 Cowley Hill was three quarters built. The dusty wooden stairs led to three bedrooms and a bathroom. I ran up and down and down and up, excited at the prospect of upward mobility. It felt like we had moved to Buckingham Palace.

Downstairs we had an open plan front room, a kitchen, a another downstairs lavatory and a garden.

The garden was to be my mothers salvation, her retreat, her sanctuary.

My father looked at the couch grass and remnants of Wedgewood saucers buried in the clay, and decided to turn the raggedy space into a tennis court, a concrete path for the washing line, and a patio for our garden furniture, of which there wasn't much.

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Cow shy

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 24 May 2014

The rain, as predicted came down big. I donned socks and thick trainers, a hoodie and leggings, yoga top and sweatshirt, over which I put a lightweight mac. Zipped up and went clockwise out of the drive.

'Go with the flow.' said Cherry Jarrett 'Go with the flow.'

So I went with the flow. The rain dripping off the leaves, puddles and collar doves. Shrilly singing blackbirds, and lots of rabbits hopping and disappearing into their burrows.

I walked steadily, heard foot steps behind me and it was the next door neighbour..

'Hello stranger.' He said.

'Run - don't wreck your rhythm.' I said. And he jogged on.

He disappeared as I walked past the newly dug ditch, past the wood yard that smelt of sweet newly sawn Beech. Up the hill and the rained stopped.

Going clockwise meant down hill was where it was up and up is where it was down. Clockwise is a harder walk.

There are three distinct phases. Through 'France' with long low houses and fields, down the avenue, through the rocks, up past the farms. down to frogspawn bend, up to the wood yard where it gets dark. The road winds up hill, it's shaded by tall, old trees, and the road narrows. One wind turbine to the left a bluebell patch to the right. Then a bright uphill stretch to the pub.

This morning I was reminded of my mother.

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Mouse ears, what mouse ears?

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 21 May 2014


If you lie on your side you will see that these are NOT mouse ears, although I thought they were. Their common name is 'thunder flower' on account of the historical belief that if you picked them you would promote thunder and lightning! I have spent three hours, cleaned the fridge and wept trying to turn the picture round. In the end it's too big for its own good but still its better than nothing. If you lie horizontally Poppy Pee Wee you can peruse it at your leisure.

This morning I saw 8 cows. Comprising 5 mamma cows, 2, calves and a young heifer. Lying golden brown in the grass.

Then 2 yapping dogs.

1 squirrel and 1 snake, a little worse for wear, a car had mistaken it for a fan belt.

3 horses grazing.

A big furry Alsation dog.

2 horses stabled.

1 cyclist who beamed a noisy 'Good morning' as he pedalled up the hill that I was struggling with. His leg muscles looked like my pericardium felt.

1 horse a clopping. If you chant 'She'll be coming round the mountain' often enough that was the rhythm of the horses hooves. Until he delivered a sack load of manure. If I had had a shovel I would have collected the manure if I had a sack.

The horse clippety clopped into the distance and a beautiful little brown butterfly fluttered by.

Apart from the polyphony of bird song the only sound around was my heavy breathing and the slapping of my rubber trainers on the road.

A new ditch has been dug to let out the stagnant water and hopefully the frog will spawn again next year.

A by product of fridge cleaning is that I'm using up the old veg. Making watercress soup with bok choi, bottle gourde, coriander, garlic and onions, including big bunch of watercress, so technically it's a soup with a bit of this and a bit of that but mostly a bit of watercress.

I made a cafetiere of coffee that was so disgusting I had to pour it down the sink. Shame i was really looking forward to it.

Last night God'sGift drove us into Stratford. Not the one where the Bard was born but the one where the Bart of the Lionel variety was born. Mind you trying to get into the central car park took as long as if we'd driven to Warwickshire.

The Theatre Royal, Stratford East where Joan Littlewood worked and gave us 'Oh What a Lovely War' was staging 'Fings Aint Wot they Used to Be', and Oh what lovely night it was.

Sitting underneath me was Barbara Windsor, Tracy Bennett to the right of me, Cameron Mackintosh to the left, whilst I was stuck in the middle with the old git and Paul O'Grady who whistled and whooped whilst I sat and enjoyed Jesse Wallace, Gary Kemp and a cast of enthusiastic belters. We all enjoyed it enough to hug each other and declare undying love to each other.

Neither us nor Mr. O'Grady stayed for the lavish feast that had been laid on for the press, he had to leave for a Julie Andrews interview whilst we had to leave for a packed Wednesday.

It wasn't the slickest of productions but it was warm, fun and so big hearted there wasn't a person left sitting at the curtain call. Go, go, go and support them if you can. They are going on tour so you'll probably catch it in a theatre near you.

The drive home was nearly as bad as the parking fiasco, why team GB has to mend the roads at night sending us on a 20 mile detour I will never know. Yes mend the roads, but have two teams and do it when people are really tucked up in their beds.

Watched the next episode of HAPPY VALLEY. The armchair took a gripping, it was directed by Ms Wainwright who wrote it. Blimey but she's good.

Bed at three with a new mosquito bite. Then up for me constitutional.

I decided this morning to concentrate on the animals, day before flowers. I don't know what I'll think about tomorrow..... the elections?

I've already made my decision, maybe I'll just wait for the muse to hit me.....


Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett and Chopstix Media Limited.