By Sue Trollip

This is my n20150624_163155_resizedew bike and our theme song is ‘I can ride my bike with no handlebars’ which turns out is a song about power and not at all about riding like a lunatic. I guess sometimes you need to learn more than the chorus. Although when I’m careering down the hill I do feel incredibly powerful. (It may be prudent to mention that when I am going uphill I do not feel powerful at all.)

And when I speak, no matter how slowly I do so or how well I articulate … there are issues.

When I took my bike in to get it’s 30 day ‘tjune-up’ things became complicated. I was having problems with my bike rack and as the ‘bike-man’ tried to remove it I said. ‘Oh, hold on I have a spanner in the boot.’

He glanced up at me from his crouched position behind my car with a nervous jolt. Then obviously deciding I was looking more passive than aggressive he said. ‘I know the word, but can’t think what it is at the moment.’

‘Ah, a wrench,’ he said, as I wielded the silver bolt undo-er in the air.

‘In the trunk,’ I replied.

So I wish Susan all the best as she ventures into a world of ‘shrimp on barbies’ I hope she learns the new lingo fast. I in the meantime shall go off to my corner and contemplate whether or not to cut my bangs!


Move Cube On Its Way…

By Susan Roberts

Yesterday I ticked one of the biggest boxes on my To Do list. Literally. It was a huge box called a Move Cube and my friends and I loaded it with all my worldly goods. I waved as it left my driveway on the back of a truck and felt as if an even larger load had been lifted from my aching shoulders. It’s out of my hands now, and the next time I see it will be in Melbourne, in about three months’ time.

Of course, not all my worldly goods were in it. A box that is 2,26 metres long by 1,87 metres high by 1,46 metres wide isn’t really big enough to fit all the lifetime trappings of a 53 year old hoarder, but I gave it my best shot. I’ve mused on and off for the last five years about what I will one day take to Australia when my time comes, and what I will leave behind, but I’m afraid my imagination was larger than the actual Cube and I had some difficult decisions to make.

When I was given the green light six months ago, I booked my Move Cube and began my planning in earnest. After a lifetime spent working in the theatre I soon realised that the only way I could work it out properly was to build a scale model of the cube and scale models of all my furniture, and play physical Tetris. Playing with the furniture was easy; the unknown quantity was the boxes and so called “small items” that always take up more space than you think they will. I solved the problem of the boxes by seeking out boxes that would fit exactly between the shelves of my beloved bookcases, and then filling only those boxes.

Unfortunately there are always items that are too large to fit into boxes and they have to be grouped together and painstakingly wrapped in bubble wrap. Pictures, mirrors, that cute cat-shaped blackboard that my friend Mandy made me before departing for Ireland twenty years ago and so on. Add to this the fact that the Australian authorities need to inspect certain things such as shoes, Christmas decorations and wooden articles, which have to be packed separately and placed close to the door, and the picture becomes more complicated.

All my curtains, bedding and clothing went easily in Vac-Bags which had the air sucked out, and my hope was that these would fill in the small gaps and cushion the furniture from bashing against each other en route. Despite my best efforts, as the day drew near I began to despair that I would never fit it all in, and I still hadn’t actually finishing the packing of things into boxes. I don’t think I have ever felt more unprepared for something in my life. And yet I had been planning and sorting for more than six months. How was this possible?

My friend Penny spent two days at my house packing things in bubble wrap and carefully placing them into the designated boxes, and I will forever be grateful to her. The night before the move, I didn’t get as far as sleeping because I spent it wrapping the furniture in bubble wrap, labelling every item (all 95 of them!) and trying to stay awake with a jar of coffee “borrowed” from work because I don’t generally drink the stuff.

Coffee at 2.30 in the morning kept me from falling over and a shower at 7, followed by a fruit smoothie, ensured that I was in reasonable shape by the time my friends Tina and Bryan arrived at 8.30. They found me still throwing clothes into Vac-Bags, even though I was convinced by then that it wasn’t all going to fit in. My landlord Terry, along with Alfred the weightlifter and his young friend, put a tarpaulin on the grass and carried the big table outside so that Tina and Bryan could wrap the legs in bubble wrap.

It was only when I heard the laughter and jokes coming from outside that I realised this was a day to be celebrated, instead of to be dreaded like an execution. I finally began to relax and let it all happen. The plans had been in place for months – all we had to do was work according to the scale model and see what was left over.

When the Cube arrived at 9, I was horrified once again by how small it seemed to be. The others didn’t foresee any problems. The process was short. It was all done in an hour and a half. The driver was impressed at the scale model and said he had never experienced such a smooth loading before. But no one was more surprised than me when it all fitted in and I didn’t have to leave a single box behind!

Tina, Bryan and I celebrated with brunch at a nearby coffee shop and then I fell asleep on my bed at last. It’s been a tiring six months.

Next on my To Do list? Cats on a plane; goodbye to my wonderful friends; me on a plane. I’m finally on my way, Australia…


By Jacqueline Dowling

Michael Palin once did a circum-something of the Sahara. The BBC filmed it as part of a series predictably titled Sahara. He spent one episode with a group of Bedouins transporting salt across the desert. Camels carried the salt, not the Bedous who just walked and looked tremendously fetching in their brilliant blue headgear. At night they sat around a fire drinking tea, eating recently despatched goat and chatting…which was when Michael P decided to teach them a word or two of English. Raising his glass of tea he wished them, in the good traditional English manner ‘Bottoms Up’. A moment of silence followed after which he explained the meaning of the term – ‘jolly good health to you all’ – and invited his hosts to reciprocate in similar vein. Which they did: the result sounded, at first, a bit like Ahhhh Bo hot tott ums ahp. After a few more tries it modified to a more recognisable Bohhorrumsahp liberally sprinkled with Arabic glottal shocks. And they all fell into a tranquil and satisfied slumber.


What has this to do with anything you may ask? Well, nothing really except that I’ve recently watched the series again, and bitten my nails to the quick over the 2015 Oxford/Cambridge boat race which, for the first time, included women’s crews. Oxford won. Both races. And this is where Bottoms Up comes on board.

One memorable April, we hired a cabin cruiser and puttered up the Thames from Abingdon to Lechlade. A book of river details and good manners showed all the shallows, locks and hazards, so we reckoned it would be a doddle. Spring in full glory, fields of cows, buttercups and cowslips on each side and very little traffic – bit too nippy on the water so early in the year being the reason. Which was fine. It gave us time to make mutts of ourselves through the first couple of locks without an audience. Okay, so the lock steps were pretty slimy and it was hard work ratcheting the gates open on my own (someone had to steer the boat), but I didn’t fall in and we remembered to leave the locks open on the upstream sections. Good manners.

2Mallards and swans accompanied us part of the way on the Oxford stretch: the ducks very vocal at all times quacking in a series of descending notes which sounded more like a jeering soccer mob than birds of fine plumage might be expected to make. An island of young birch trees, ferns and ducks’ nests hove into view. The river narrowed here, and took a bend. It seemed an ideal spot to moor and pick a bunch of cowslips for the cabin. So we did. It was only when the time came to put the engine into reverse, throttle up and get back into the stream that the trouble started. We were well and truly stuck on a bank of shale – well marked on the map. As lock-opener, deckhand, galleyslave and the rest, I was instructed to use the boat’s pole to push off from the bank. This didn’t work because the bank was soft and muddy and the pole got stuck.

5Enter plan B : orders from the bridge to take off shoes and jeans, hop overboard and give us a push… which I did: leaving just a pvc jacket and jumper on top, and Marks and Spencer generous cuts (white) below. The boat had an aluminium pipe pulpit around the bow, to stop passengers falling overboard. It was easy enough to ‘hop’ over the top and give a couple of mighty heaves which released the boat. I was then left to get myself back on board, over said pulpit, in a pair of soggy knickers and a muddy, slippery jacket. Very difficult, especially as the skipper was busy elsewhere and couldn’t help. The mallards had a field day quacking and ducking under the water, nipping my toes and other things. And then, to my horror and everlasting mortification, around the bend came an Oxford Eight, practising for the upcoming boat race. Ducks went into ecstasies, the crew let out a roar – meant either as a warning to get out of their way or because of my desperate situation I’ll never know, folded as I was over a slender bar, head down tail up.

But what I did come to realise was that the good old English salutation ‘Bottoms Up’ may well have originated on a stretch of river, many years ago…


When my Blackberry got sick

by Penny Mitchell

Co-author of ‘Going Global – Technology made Simple’ and Consultant for Communications that Matter

As friends and followers probably know by now, communication is almost as important to me as my source of air.

Imagine then the trauma I went through when my BB was threatened by premature death. It was due for an upgrade about one and a half years ago, but I insisted on keeping it. I changed my contract back to a ‘weekender’ (now extinct) when I retired, thinking it would be a while before I would need to make numerous day time calls and I needed to reduce unnecessary fiscal outflows. I was forced to take a new phone with the contract (i.e. the supposedly free one – cheapest possible), but continued to use my Blackberry for anything and everything – and I mean everything, e.g. I take notes on my phone, copy and paste to emails, Google and copy and paste to notes etc. etc.

My thumbs get more exercise than the rest of my body on a daily basis, my brain stays active and alert and I no longer feel stupid when I don’t know something (I can Google it), all because of technology at my fingertips.

So what was wrong with my BB? The battery was not holding its charge and the back kept flipping off. I visited my service provider to price a new battery and see what it would cost me to upgrade to the same model of BB because, “I love my Blackberry.” This caused some amusement.

“You’ll never get another one like that,” the sales person said. She showed me the only Blackberry available, a Blackberry Classic, but cautioned that they have had all sorts of complaints about the new Blackberrys (or should it be Blackberries?).

I went online to an Info Group I sometimes check out on Facebook to ask if anybody had experience of the new Blackberry.

One respondent said that she had had a BB for five months and was absolutely satisfied. I began to wonder if BB was victim to a slur campaign put out by the competition. It’s amazing how dangerous bad press is and how hard it is to counter once it’s gone viral. For all we know, one person got a Blackberry for the first time ever, couldn’t get to grips with it and bad-mouthed it right across the internet.

Anyway, back to my BB – it limped along faithfully on a twice daily charge until I took it to a clinic in a local shopping centre. Turns out I had been abusing my baby! I’d been putting it on charge overnight and overcooking the battery. It was swollen and popping the back to escape. Aagh! Fortunately major surgery wasn’t required. A new battery did the trick.

I returned to my service provider to change my package from a weekender free minutes which I hardly ever used. I didn’t have to take a replacement phone. My contract is now SIM only, includes BBM service and my same number; and is half the price with room to top up in need!