Saturday, 7 April 2012

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Saturday job

Great excitement when I reached the magical age of 15 and was old enough to have a Saturday job! My auntie worked in a department store called Patrick Thompsons - known to everyone as PT's - and she managed to get me a job in the Accounts Department. I only worked one Saturday there and then I was transferred to the Cash Desk.

PT's was built on the North Bridge of Edinburgh and was an enormous building, with 4 basement floors below the bridge and 5 above it. The shop had one of those wonderful pneumatic tube systems. Every sale had a hand-written triplicate receipt, 2 parts of which were put in a small cylinder (see picture above) with the cash and sent through the tubes to the Cash Desk in basement 2.

The cylinders arrived on a small conveyor belt in front of us - similar to the one above - and we would keep one copy of the receipt, stamp the other as paid and put it with the change back in the cylinder, which then went into a tube in front of us. It whizzed across the room to the return tubes station - like the one below - and someone would put it into the appropriate tube to be returned whence it came.

Cheque payments in those days were rare and all cheques had to be dealt with by the Chief Cashier, we lesser mortals weren't allowed to have anything to do with them. Occasionally a request for a cash refund came through. Refunds were never sent through the tubes for some reason, but had to be taken in person to the appropriate department. This was usually my job and it was a great excuse to be released from the dark, windowless basement!  When it was quiet, one of my jobs was polishing all the brass tubes - a mammoth task akin to painting the Forth Bridge!

Most of my friends had Saturday jobs and there was one girl who worked in her Dad's shop, although she was always very coy about the nature of the business - we eventually found out her Dad was an undertaker. You can imagine the reaction of a bunch of 15 year olds to that one!

I earned the princely sum of 17/6 less 3d for NI. I used to buy most of my clothes with my Saturday money - it helped that we had a staff discount in the store. I stayed there until I left school and got a proper job.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


I was 8 years old the first time I was taken out for a drive in a Jaguar. I still remember today the power of the acceleration pushing me back into my seat - what a wonderful sensation! I was in love! 

My next encounter with a Jag was about 2 years later when the police came to our school to talk about road safety. As well as a normal police car, there in the playground was a gleaming dark green Jag. The policeman demonstrated the siren and the hidden blue lights and told us this was the car he used to catch speeding motorists, because they didn't realise it was a police car. "Don't tell your dads", he said - so naturally we all rushed home to tell our fathers to look out for the "plainclothes" police car.

When I was around 18 or 19, a young man my Father knew had an E-type and he would occasionally give me a lift somewhere. There I was, typical dolly bird with long blonde hair, short, short skirt and white PVC boots getting into an E-type, was I the bees knees or what? At that time, I knew a lot of young men with sports cars but there was just nothing to compare with the E-type - and there still isn't today!

Jaguars (although not my love of them) then disappeared from my life for many years until Gerry gave me a Jaguar driving day for my birthday one year. Off we went to Mallory Park race track and I drove a Mark II Jag, then an E-type (bliss!), then an Aston Martin DB5 (didn't like that very much and, interestingly, neither did any of the men doing the same driving day). Next up was a gorgeous XK8 - soft top, dark metallic blue with cream leather interior - and the grand finale was 3 laps as a passenger in a D-type, driven by a professional racing driver. What a wonderful day!

As my 50th birthday approached, I dropped many to hints to Gerry about a statue for the garden, so when he came home from work one evening and said I'd better come and see my birthday present as he couldn't keep it hidden, I stepped out of the front door looking for a statue. There was nothing at all in the front garden so I looked at him in puzzlement and he pointed a little way up the road and there was a beautiful XJ-S (see top photo - all photos are Jags we have owned at different times) parked there. I asked if he'd hired it as a treat for a couple of days but no, he'd bought it as a birthday present - what a present, what a man!

I drove with a permanent grin on my face, I just couldn't get into the car without smiling. Gerry had also enrolled me as a member of the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club and we started going to our local meetings and to Jaguar rallies. We also started buying up Jags as though they were going out of fashion. At the height of this mad phase we had 11 Jaguars! Some were old wrecks bought for parts and some were restoration projects, but we had at least 3 on the road at any one time. I eventually became chairperson of our local JEC Club, which was interesting to say the least!

We had a superb weekend at Thoresby Hall in Leicestershire (or is it Nottinghamshire?) on the occasion of the 21st birthday of the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club. We had a suite with a four poster bed in this fabulous hotel and stayed there for 3 nights. Superb food, entertainment every night, Jaguars all day, an afternoon in the Spa and an audience with Stirling Moss one evening - one of the best weekends we've ever had. On the Sunday afternoon, there was a Jaguar rally and there were about 2000 Jags there - thought I'd died and gone to Heaven!

When we moved to France, we were down to only (only!) 2 Jags and we sold both of them before we moved. I would love to have another one at some point, they are comfortable, stylish and oh so quick! You can keep the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis etc - they just don't do it for me. It's got to be a Jaguar!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Social Life - part 2


I love the French custom of having aperitifs. You know exactly what is expected of you - you turn up about 6.30pm, have a couple of drinks and a few nibbles and then you're on your way home again for dinner by about 8.00pm. Occasionally you get invited for an after dinner drink and again you know exactly what is expected of you - you turn up about 8.30pm, have a couple of glasses of wine and some cake, then a piece of fruit, then coffee and Calvados. This is usually over by 10.30pm but can go on a lot longer!

After our first Soirée (see previous blog!), we invited the two French couples we met there for an aperitif at our house the following Friday. We served a selection of nibbles and offered them a choice of red, white or rosé wine. They looked a little confused at the choice of wine but drank it happily and one couple then invited all of us to their house the following week. That's when we found out where we'd gone wrong! The nibbles were fine - fairly standard - but we now know you don't offer wine as an aperitif. The usual choices are Kir, pastis, whisky or port, although there are many others to choose from. We now have a very comprehensive drinks cupboard!

Friends invited us, as we thought, for an aperitif one evening so we decided to have lunch out so that we didn't have to bother cooking when we got home in the evening. We went to the local bar and had a lovely four course lunch with red wine for Gerry and cider for me (all for 11€ each!). Having slept that off during the afternoon, we duly turned up at 6.30pm for our aperitif. It was immediately obvious that we'd got it wrong and we had actually been invited for dinner - gulp! While Alise carried on cooking, Paul took us along to have a look at his allotment, where we met a friend of his who immediately invited us to his nearby house for an aperitif. He poured us huge measures of pastis and added a teaspoonful of water. Before we were halfway through those, he insisted on topping us up "to finish the bottle". Our lips were rapidly going numb and the legs weren't working too well either.

Then the phone rang - it was Alise to say that dinner was ready and would Yannau please send us home. So we threw the remaining pastis down our necks and wobbled back to Paul's house. Alise of course had set out some nibbles and was now ready to sit down for an aperitif with us. Next came a superb four course meal with copious amounts of wine, followed by coffee and generous glasses of Calvados. By midnight, Gerry and I could barely speak English, let alone French! We left our car there and stumbled home, with many a detour into the ditch.

The moral of this tale? We now double check exactly what it is we're being invited to - our livers couldn't take many days like that!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Put on your dancing shoes

When I was young, I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. I nagged and nagged until finally I was allowed to go to ballet class. Naturally, I had visions of myself prancing around on points (pink naturally) in a pale pink, sparkly tutu with pristine white tights. The reality, of course, was somewhat different - plain white tunic and BLACK ballet shoes with white socks. Being a bit of a tomboy (despite the desire to be a ballerina!), I invariably had grubby knees - not quite the look I was hoping to achieve.
Miss Johnson's School of Ballet was in the centre of Edinburgh, which meant getting a bus by myself. The bus dropped me off right outside but coming home I had to cross a very busy main road to catch the bus. I had strict instructions not to try to cross the road by myself but to ask an adult to see me safely across. I must have been about 10 at the time - can you imagine telling a 10 year old these days to approach a stranger to see them across the road??!! Anyway, I survived - which is more than my ballet career did. Despite being an extremely skinny child, I was very heavy-footed and not at all supple and when I discovered it would be years before I could twirl around in the desired manner, I soon lost interest.
As a teenager, I loved going dancing but was always surprised that everyone was out of step with me. This happened in our Scottish country dancing classes in school too. What was wrong with everyone? My ex-husband used to enjoy dancing but his sense of rhythm was on a par with mine. We always looked as though we were dancing to totally different tunes. Story of our life together really!
When Gerry and I met, he wasn't at all keen on dancing. After a holiday in Malta watching couples who had obviously been to classes twirling effortlessly around the floor each evening, we decided that we really had to learn to dance. The only class I could find in our area was line dancing. Gerry wasn't remotely interested in that so I went by myself. At last I had found something I could do! I think I find line dancing easy because the steps are so precise, the music has a strong beat and, most importantly, I don't have to follow someone else.
Although I was really enjoying the line dancing, it still wasn't something we could do together so when we saw Swing-Jive/Lindy Hop classes starting up nearby, we signed up immediately. We both loved it from the start, especially since we love the music of the 40's and 50's. I have to say that we're not particularly good but we thoroughly enjoy it and we used to go to one or two classes every week and two or three dances a month.
Since moving to France, we haven't been able to find any classes or dances in our area. We've been to various parties and soirées where the odd Rock'n'Roll tune is played and we have been able to strut our stuff. However, more traditional dancing is popular over here, especially to accordion music so we're going to have to learn a whole new reportoire!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Facebook and email

This is going to be a bit of a rant but I must start by saying that I love Facebook. It helps me keep up with what is going on in friends' lives and it is an easy way to keep in touch and share photos, videos etc. Because of FB, I am back in contact with many people I had lost touch with and I think that is one of the great strengths of FB.

BUT! Am I the only person to find some postings offensive? You know the ones I mean - "if you have an angel in heaven looking out for you, post this as your status, even if only for one hour" (pass the bucket please!) or "I know who will repost this and if you don't, maybe you're too busy talking to your friends to care about our soldiers (or whatever)". I find that sort of posting truly offensive, some emotions are too private to be plastered over FB. I'm aware that by writing a blog, I'm parading some private emotions but I know that many people don't bother to read it (dear God - now I sound like one of those postings!) and those who do are generally people who are genuinely interested in what I have to say.

I'm sorry if I'm giving offence to anyone reading this who likes to post this sort of thing on FB but those of you who know me well know how I feel about it anyway.

...and as for those emails which promise bad luck (or even good luck!) if you don't pass it on within 5 minutes to the world and his wife, I always delete those immediately. I also loathe the emails which try to make you feel guilty if you don't pass them on. They're usually along the lines of "if you don't care about blah blah, you won't pass this on". Again, I delete them immediately. I have to say I don't get many of those any more as most friends know how strongly I feel about them and know that I never, ever pass on anything along those lines.

Finally, on FB do people really have 400+ friends? I don't think I've had that many friends and acquaintances in my whole life put together! Is it me? Am I just a grumpy old woman?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Social life in France

Our first soirée

When we moved to France almost 4 years ago (good grief - where does the time go?!) we wanted to make sure that we integrated into the life of the village. Too many people move to France and spend all their time with other ex-pats and we were determined to be different. We started off by going into the local bar 2 or 3 times a week and talking to anyone who was prepared to listen to our halting French.

At the end of our first month here we bought tickets to a soirée in the Salle des Fetes (village hall). The bar owner had told us that although the tickets said 8.00pm start, there was no point in getting there before 9.00pm, so we duly turned up just after 9.00 to find a brightly lit hall, with what seemed like dozens of children running about. There were many long tables set out at right angles to the walls and we noticed on the end of each table a list of names. We searched, but couldn't find our names on any of the lists. Unsure what to do next, we thought of going home again but instead we bought a drink and looked again at the lists and eventually noticed "Anglais - 2". This had to be us!

There were only 2 seats remaining at the table, one either side at the far end next to the wall. We squeezed past everyone - no easy task as the tables were set very close together. The French people next to us were very friendly and were very interested in the fact that we were "English" (Gerry of course is technically Welsh and I am Scottish but to the French we are English!).

We had a four course meal, which lasted until about 1.00am and then the band started playing and the dancing commenced. Lots of accordion music which the French dance to very enthusiastically! The band were excellent and played a complete mixture, even some Rock 'n' Roll - which got us to our feet to show off our jiving skills.

By 2.30am we were exhausted (and all the kids were still running around!) and got ready to leave. Our new French friends were also leaving and one couple asked us if we would like to go back to their house for a nightcap. We really had to get back for the dogs so we explained that we couldn't. However, I knew we had to make a determined effort to make friends so I asked the two couples if they would like to come to our house the following Friday evening for an aperitif.

And that was the start of our new social life! To be continued............