Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Changes Afoot

My intention to Blog regularly fell by the wayside this year, partly due to the fact that we are on the move...or will be when everything is sorted...eventually!

Once I settle into my new home I promise I will make more or an effort, for what that's worth.

See you soon.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Wholly Unromantic

Martha surveyed the room and decided it was wholly unromantic given what she was going to do. The dining table was set in front of the small bay window. The antique candelabra with its four candles placed at the centre of the table. She giggled at the thought of four candles, she could never say those words without thinking of the comedy sketch that had made her favourite double act so famous. At opposite ends of the table two place settings were adorned with the finest china, cutlery and wine glasses they possessed. Most rarely used in everyday life.

But this was not everyday life. This was something special. The forty-ninth anniversary of her marriage to George, upright, outstanding citizen to the outside world. Boring old fart to her.
The marriage had started well; children came along on cue; George progressed up the corporate ladder as was his due. She could never complain that she had not been provided for. She had not worked seriously most of her married life; sometimes taking on temporary office jobs once the children had left home, more to relieve the boredom than any need to earn money. She could have anything she wanted. But as time went on they drifted apart. They had different interests, which in some respects was good, but meant they didn't really need each other. They were like two strangers living in the same house with her acting as a maid providing food and laundry services.
She turned from her inspection of the table to find George had just entered the room. He smiled, weakly, stepped forward and gave her a cursory peck on the cheek.

'Happy anniversary, Darling,' he said. 'I have a surprise for you but you will have to wait until after dinner.'

'Same here, on all counts,' she  responded. She smiled and stepped away from him. 'Open the wine, will you, please. I'll go and get the soup.'

If nothing else Martha was a good cook, making everything herself from fresh ingredients. The potato and leek soup was made with...potatoes and leeks with a touch of something special making it unique to her.

'Delicious as always,' George said, dabbing his lips with satisfaction.

The evening continued. Traditional roast beef with homemade horseradish sauce. Apple pie with cloves in a light shortcrust pastry sprinkled with sugar, and real custard, not that stuff made with powder or even worse, out of a carton!
George ate with relish. He always enjoyed his food as his rather round figure suggested. Martha ate the same, but with smaller portions. They drank the fine wine that had been bought especially for the occasion, then drank fresh coffee, made the old fashioned way with a filter, not one of those new high tech devices.

They said very little to each other during the meal. After 49 years there was little left to say.
'The meeting at the U3A was very interesting today,' George said suddenly. 'We had someone come to speak about the Battle of Bosworth.'

George had been going to the U3A every week, two or three times sometimes, ever since he had retired. He tried to get Martha to go with him but she couldn't see anything on the programme that really interested her. Ancient history was definitely not of interest to her.

'That's nice, love,' she said. 'There's something I need to tell you.' This was it. She took a deep breath and looked at George as he cocked his head to one side like a puppy waiting for a treat. 'I've decided I'm leaving. I'm going to Thailand to help look after orangutangs. They are endangered, you know. There is a place that looks after orphans rescued from the jungle.'
George blinked a couple of times.

'Why?' he asked. 'I thought you were happy enough.'

'I've spent my whole life being nothing more than chief cook and bottle washer,' she said, a sudden passion in her voice. 'I want to do something worthwhile with the rest of my life and this is what I've chosen to do. It's all arranged. I've had all the shots. I've been saving my pension so have enough money to last for a while. I'm leaving on Monday.'

George sat back in his chair. His mind was racing. He was trying very hard not to grin and show his utter relief. She was leaving him. So he didn't have to tell her he was about to do the same thing! Although he wasn't going off to Thailand, he was planning to leave his lovely house and move down to Mildred's rather tired flat. Mildred, the woman from the U3A who shared his interests. But he wouldn't have to do that now. Mildred could come here. He was sure she would like the house. And he could still potter around the garden. Martha had never shown any interest in the garden.  He tried to look upset, hurt even, but...

'I'm sorry you feel you have wasted your life,' he said.

'Oh, most of it has been ok,' Martha said quickly. 'It's just that we seem to have drifted apart. You must have felt that, too. We never do anything together.'

'Have you told Peter and Jenny?' Again relief that the children wouldn't blame him for the split. He was on a winning streak here.

'Yes. Peter tried to talk me out of it but Jenny was very understanding. I think she would rather like to come with me.'

George made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a laugh and muttered 'Hormones' beneath his breath.

A noise outside made them both look towards the window. A large vehicle, a lorry, perhaps, they couldn't see, but it sounded large, was charging down the hill towards the bend on which their house was set. Martha hardly had time to register it wasn't going to slow down enough to make the bend when it crashed through the bay window.

The headline in the local paper read HAPPY COUPLE KILLED WHEN LORRY CRASHED THEIR ANNIVERSARY DINNER. No doubt some editor thought that was clever. There was no mention in the following story of Martha's dream to help the orangutangs or George's fondness for Mildred!

  The End

Copyright©Kristen Stone 2018

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Single Use Plastic

Supermarkets are being pushed to go ‘single use plastic free’ But what does this actually mean? What exactly is single use plastic? Is it plastic bags that cannot be recycled, or is it all plastic that is used once and then possibly recycled if people can be bothered to put it in the recycling bin?
Assuming the first option, taking a virtual walk around my usual supermarket the following items are in pre-priced/barcoded plastic:
Bags of vegetables including, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, courgettes, onions, potatoes, lettuce, radish plus precut salad and vegetables.
Bags of fruit including, apples of various varieties, pears, various, bananas (even though they come in their own packaging!)
I won’t mention all the fruits, meat, fish and cooked meats that come in recyclable punnets, trays and dishes with plastic tops or sleeves that are not recyclable.  
Then we have plastic bags of cleaning products, with either liquid-tabs or solid tablets. I've never given a thought as to what happens to the liquid-tabs when the disappear. Do they disappear completely or are they turned into invisible micro plastic? Think I’ll go back to powder just in case.
On to biscuits and sweets. All those packs of Minstrels, Maltesers, M&Ms etc, all in plastic packs. Don’t know if they can be recycled but bet they usually end up in the bin.
Biscuits have always been wrapped in plastic of some sort. But PPPick up a Penguin, or any of the other options and you have double wrapping, the outer wrapping for the whole pack, then each individual biscuit wrapped in plastic.
Move on to Breakfast. Breakfast biscuits are great, they come in a cardboard box but each individual serving is wrapped in plastic of the non-recyclable type. Individual sachets of porridge, apart from being ridiculously expensive compared to actually buying a packet of porridge oats, more packaging is involved.
Then we come to drinks. Squash comes in plastic, water comes in plastic; although I fail to understand why we need bottled water in every shop in a country where tap water is perfectly drinkable. I know some areas might have problems, but everywhere? You can always filter your water if you wish, but the rows and rows of water in plastic bottles is surely unnecessary in most parts of the UK.
All this is without mentioning butter tubs, yoghurt pots, cheese wrappers, pizzas, table sauces that used to come in glass bottles, and all the things I have forgotten.
So how do we cut out single use plastics and what exactly are the supermarkets planning to do? Iceland said they would cut out single use plastics but all their frozen vegetables, fish, and some meats come in plastic bags. It sounds like a good idea but we have become so dependent on using plastic bags what is the alternative?
It’s not only drinking straws and coffee cups, I spotted a journalist at a press conference asking questions about plastic waste holding a plastic pen! We don’t even register what we are using half the time.
I totally agree that too much plastic waste is getting into the environment posing a threat to wildlife, but how can we stop it? We even put our rubbish in plastic bin liners!
Right, time to go shopping now!

Monday, 29 January 2018


A recent report stated that loneliness was as bad for your health as smoking. I don't know if this is true but I do know there are far too many people who have no contact with anyone else. Do you know anyone who could do with a visit or even a phone call to relieve that sense of isolation.

This is my story about loneliness.

The elderly man made his way from the shop with a shuffling gait, shoulders hunched, head down watching for anything that might cause him to trip or fall. People hurried by, barely noticing him. Despite being tall and smartly dressed he was all but invisible to the world. He clutched the handles of his shopping bag in his arthritic fingers, fearing if he dropped it he would not be able to bend down to pick it up again.

The girl in the shop had been very helpful. He chuckled at the thought. Girl, was maybe the wrong word. She was probably in her forties but she seemed like a girl to him. She had waited patiently while he had emptied his basket onto the conveyor belt, smiled at him and said 'hello', even put his shopping in his bag for him, but she wasn't the chatty one, the one who asked how he was and who told him about her grandchildren.

He reached his house and let himself in, removing his overcoat on the way to the kitchen, dropping it on the chair in the hall.

Grandchildren, he thought, as he switched on the kettle to make some tea. He had three but couldn't remember the last time he saw any of them, nor his children for that matter. The grandkids, two boys and a girl, were all pretty much grown up now. All at university, with their own friends. It wasn't as if their parents could drag them round to visit any more. And they all lived so far away, not like the old days when families stayed in the same area.

He put his shopping away. A couple of tins of soup and some bread. He never did a large shop, not like the youngsters did. He couldn't carry a big bag and there was no way he was going to use one of those trolley things. Besides, if he didn't go to the shop every day he didn't see anyone.

Winter was the worst time. Cold, dark and often wet. If it was raining too much he would stay indoors. No point in getting soaked and catching a cold. Those days dragged. With only the television for company he often found himself talking back to the screen, especially if some stupid politician was trying to say how wonderful things were.

He took his cup of tea into the living room and settled himself in his chair by the window. He liked looking out at what went by. He was lucky he could see the street. Some might say he was nosey, but what else was there to look at? Four walls and the television? He would rather watch the people and cars going by than stare at the TV all day.

He sipped his tea and tried to remember when David, his eldest, had last telephoned. People, these days, were supposedly never off their phones, yet David never called him. Yes, phones worked both ways, but the last time HE had called David he was made to feel like he was being a nuisance. He was only supposed to call in an emergency, not for general chit-chat.
What would happen, the old man wondered, if he just drifted off here in his chair. Gone to that great, long sleep from which there was no waking. Would anyone miss him? How long would he be sitting in this chair before anyone realised what had happened?

Copyright©Kristen Stone 2018