Friday, 18 March 2011

The (temporary) resurrection of a closet strumpet

Today, I'm cheating a little. This is not a new post - it's a repeat of an experiment I started when I was mostly on MySpace (now abandoned), where I introduced the seemingly mild-mannered respectable librarian, Bambi Fancipants, and asked readers to help me run with her story.

I'm resurrecting her today in honour of Red Nose Day, one of those things that makes me proud of my British roots (comedy and compassion is always a winning combo for me), and in the hope that it might raise a small smile for someone, somewhere....

The Secret Life of Ms. B. Fancipants
As she closed the church door after making sure the flowers were in place for the Sunday morning service, Bambi Fancipants – spinster of the parish - smoothed out the wrinkles in her tweed skirt and straightened her twin-set as she prepared to face the world. As she did, her hand brushed against the outline of the suspender belt attached to the black-and-red basque trimmed with scarlet feathers beneath her schoolmarmish apparel. She smiled secretly to herself as she considered how very different she really was to the meek and modest librarian that everyone in Holthorne-by-Sea thought they knew....

As she turned to leave the covered doorway a loud voice startled her. "Tart!"

Bambi stood stock still, a thousand thoughts tumbling through her mind.

"For the fete tomorrow afternoon," continued the vicar. "Don't forget to bring one of your fabulous tarts!"

Bambi relaxed and smiled.
"Of course," she replied.

"I fear Mrs Miggins’ baps will take a lot of beating on Sunday," said the Reverend. "But your tarts should give her a run for her money in the cooking competition."

As he mounted his bike and turned to leave, the Reverend gave her a wink and shouted "You provide a wonderful service for the village folk" as he cycled away.

A pensive look flitted across Bambi's face. Could he know? She shook her head to banish the thought. "No" she said out loud "He couldn't!"

Walking down the High Street, she paused at the window of Barnabas' Greengrocers. A prodigious grower, Barnabas was renowned throughout the county for his massive cucumbers and juicy plums.

"Ah, Ms. Fancipants," his eyes twinkled as she entered the shop. "You'll be looking
at my prize fruit, I'll warrant.
Sunday's fete looks like it'll be a good'un."
He licked his lips. "I've always been partial to your cherry offerings."

"Actually, I was thinking of raspberries this year," Bambi shyly ventured.

Barnabas give a whoop of delight and clapped his hands. "Even better! There's nothing like a pouty red fruit atop a tart!"

Bambi left the shop puzzled, her pace slower than usual.

Was it her imagination, or were all the villagers beginning to sound like Sid James on an off day? No matter.

She patted her basket and sighed, brushing her fingers over a large punnet of berries and Barnabas' enormous carrot and cauliflowers. The man was a magician with soil. Many was the time she had spent bent over in his allotment watching him get stuck in.

Before long, she ran into across the local schoolmistress, Aida Romp. Miss Romp was known throughout the village as a strict taskmistress with her young male pupils. Once Bambi had witnessed her having it out with the young William Hung, after catching the poor young lad playing with the farmer’s cock: the biggest, proudest bird to be found at any village fete. She had chewed him up and spat him out - poor William had looked so pale, as if all the life had been sucked out of him.

"Morning Miss Romp," Bambi chirped.

"Oh, morning Fancipants." Aida always called people by their surname – an occupational habit she had never grown out of after years of teaching.

"I’m off to find something sticky and sweet to put inside..." started Bambi.

"...your hot tarts, Bambi." Miss Romp interrupted.


"Well, to be sure, it’s something that will have everyone drooling. I do so love to get my tongue around your juicy fillings."

As she opened the front door to the ivy-clad cottage she shared with her one-eyed cat, Madrigal, Bambi could barely contain her excitement at the thought of the fast-approaching village fete – the event of the year as far as she was concerned. This year, there was more than usual array of home-baked goodies and tombolas to look forward to. This year would see the return of Holthorne-by-Sea's prodigal son - and her first love.

After years carving out a distinguished career in Tinsel Town, Rick River (a.k.a little Dickie Pond) was returning to the village to open the fete in true Hollywood style. And Bambi Fancipants planned to be there to welcome him with open arms.

She sighed at the thought of their innocent stolen kisses behind the bike-sheds all those years ago. Even then, they had sent a thrill through her that she had never experienced since - try as she might.
If only Dickie's lipstick hadn't clashed so violently with her own modest shade....

It had been a long day and she needed to wind down. She took a book from her shelves and turning to Madrigal (who was now rubbing around her ankles), announced: “The cooking can wait, I need something to relax me a bit, and welcome as your attentions are, it isn't you...”

She went to the kitchen, fed the cat, and remembered some wine chilling in the fridge.
Just the thing.

"But relaxing is something you can't do in tweeds, least of all when there are tarts to make ...later.”

She took a long sip of her wine, put down her glass, and went upstairs to change. Off came the twinset and skirt, discarded as a butterfly sheds its chrysalis. She paused, turning sideways to approve of her profile in the mirror, smiling to herself, thinking: “Red always suited me; yes, I like red.”

She came downstairs to settle with her wine, a good book and her cat for company. But Madrigal was fussing to be let out, so Bambi stretched and rose from the sofa. She was about to open the front door when there was a knock. There was no mistaking the silhouette of her visitor even though she hadn't seen him in the flesh for years.

'Dickie!' she breathed. Madrigal escaped as she opened the door...

She slowly, shyly lifted her eyes to the face she remembered oh-so-well. She took in the well-honed golden-tanned body and… was that the suspicion of a visible corset line she could see beneath the expensive fitted silk shirt?
No matter, it was Dickie alright. That much she knew as she met his expectant gaze.
The spark was still there, and she was relieved to see that he had not added the ubiquitous blue contact lenses to hide his unique set of unmatched khaki-green and mud-brown peepers.

Nervously fingering the fur trim of her basque through the flimsy fabric of her trousers, Bambi took a deep breath – which, to her horror, came out as a star-struck gasp – smiled awkwardly and said "Well, hello stranger!"

"Hello yourself," drawled Dickie arrogantly, in a voice flattened by Hollywood and now completely devoid of any character. "It doesn't get much stranger than this, does it dahling?"

Dickie entered and stood looking around Bambi’s humble living room.

“How deliciously cheap, dahling!” he exclaimed at last “I always was impressed by your simple tastes.”

“None simpler than you” thought Bambi tartly.

“Tea?” she asked.

“Darjeeling?” enquired Dickie.


Dickie guffawed theatrically before delicately mopping the spittle from the corner of his mouth with a silk handkerchief flamboyantly produced from inside his blouse.

"You'll be the death of me!" he said. "Forget the tea. Let’s sit! You’ll be wanting to hear all about my wonderful life, dahling. While you’ve been here tending the vicar’s blooms I’ve been on a magical journey.”

Bambi sat down on the sofa opposite Dickie and listened politely as he went on – and on, and on.

“It wasn’t all plain sailing, dahling, I can tell you” he continued. “You know of my humble beginnings at the local Am Dram society but I left so hastily and without a word to you!

I had a calling you see. Kismet, if you will.
For two years, I worked the cruise ships to open my passage to the Land of The Free.”

Bambi frowned. It was going to be a long night. Sensing he was losing her attention, Dickie raised his voice a notch.

“DAHLING! Have you any idea how hard it is to work your passage with 200 sailors tossing about on the open sea? It really takes it out of a performer. Even one of my calibre.”

“Dickie, this is all fascinating,” Bambi retorted. “But I really must ask why you chose to visit me after all these years? After all, you had so many …. erm ….. ‘good friends’ in the village, didn’t you?”

She noted the tone of voice, the inclination of the head, so different from the image in her memory, yet there was still a vulnerability hiding in there somewhere, she was convinced.

“Well,” he said. “I have this fan site on the internet, where all my friends and fans can keep up with what I'm doing.”

“Fascinating,” said Bambi stifling a yawn. “Do go on.”

Hardly pausing for breath, he added: “The vicar is a great one for correspondence, and has kept in touch since I left. He knew that I’m planning a movie memoir, and wanted to return to do some research, so he volunteered in his own little way....”

("Lord, I need my wine!” thought Bambi. Her patience was beginning to wear thin.)

“So when he asked me to open the village fete, well, who was I to turn down free publicity? I decided to combine business with pleasure and come down here for a few days, back to dear old Holthorne. So Bambi darling, here I your service!”

He ended with a flourish and waited expectantly, as if he had just delivered a momentous and well rehearsed speech. He moved earnestly toward her along the sofa.

“Wine?” she asked, standing suddenly and moving out of arms reach, deciding that she didn't want to take part in his research project tonight.

Dickie looked stunned that he had been so effortlessly out-manoeuvred.

“Thank you,” he replied meekly, remembering that Bambi Fancipants had never been a woman to trifle with, and that manners and decorum had always been demanded in his relationship with her. She had always been the soul of discretion, and his secrets had been safe with her. He watched at her as she poured his drink, noting how trim and firm her figure still was, how her voice had the same pleasant familiarity it had always had - and he began to regret his sudden departure.

She returned with the drinks, curling up opposite him in an armchair, and as time passed, shades of the old Dickie she knew reappeared. The cruise ships and Hollywood certainly had not, in reality, been nearly as glamourous as he had imagined they'd be, and his time there had taken its toll. But now he was back in England, and ready to relax a little in the company of old friends.

“Not so old!” scolded Bambi.

“Ahh!” he smiled slyly. “But old enough to remember the first strawberry flavoured

There was a sudden gasp, “I'd completely forgotten...”

Crestfallen, Dickie said. "But darling, how could you? After all, we..”

“No, not you. Tarts! I have to do tarts."

He looked deeply shocked. “You? You’re a? I thought you were still at the library!”

She snatched his glass, saying “If I don't get on with it, there’ll be no time, and I'll be in big trouble. You must go Dickie. At once. I'll see you tomorrow…”

And with his head whirling, Dickie found himself unceremoniously bundled out the door….

....Now, neglect is a terrible thing, and when you fail to nurture something, events will sometimes punish you for your indifference. Such was the fate of Bambi and Dickie, as people joining in their story and left them to wither. It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of Bambi Fancipants and Rick Rivers, as reported in the “Daily Scum”:

Film star and librarian
crushed by flying ice boulder

by Dirk Digger

Hollywood and a sleepy Sussex village are today reeling after a freak accident claimed the lives of one of Tinsel Town’s hottest properties and the local librarian.
Rick Rivers and Bambi Fancipants were killed instantly when a one-tonne block of ice and frozen waste plummeted from the sky onto the main stage at the Holthorne-by-Sea fete, where Rivers was presenting the prizes for the local cooking competition.
Investigators believe the ice boulder formed as a result of a faulty waste release valve on the toilet of an aeroplane that had taken off from Gatwick Airport 20 minutes earlier. It is believed that accumulated waste and water formed the massive frozen sphere, which fell off just as the plane was crossing the English coast. Rivers and Ms Fancipants were the only victims of the tragedy.

Hollywood’s last lumberjack
Rick Rivers is best remembered for his impromptu performance of Monty Python’s “The Lumberjack Song” when accepting the Oscar for his supporting role in “Mounting Miss Maisy” earlier this year.
Born Dickie Pond in Holthorne-on-Sea, Rivers had returned to the village to conduct research for his next project, a documentary about his rise to fame – and to open the annual village fete.
Fighting back the tears, his Hollywood agent Barbra Heinschleck said: “Rick can never be replaced. Since he arrived in LA, he had turned our world upside-down with his cute English accent and his brilliance for playing bad guys. The tragedy is that he was poised for greatness – both professionally and personally, this was going to be his year. Not only had he been on the verge of signing for a major new deal, we were also about to announce our engagement.”
She dismissed rumours that the real reason Rivers had returned to his home village was to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Bambi Fancipants.

Heart of the village
Back in Sussex, residents of Holthorne-by-Sea were today clearing the debris from yesterday’s disaster. Sweeping away the last remnants of dozens of devastated strawberry tarts, the Reverend Obidiah Digby, vicar of St. Mary’s-On-The-Side, said the entire community was still trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
“Of course, we are saddened by the death of little Dickie Pond – I mean, Mr. Rivers,” he said. “But the greatest blow is the loss of Bambi Fancipants - the very heart of our village, who represented everything that is worth preserving about rural English life. She was the very soul of discretion and respectability, and was always eager to serve her community in any way she could.”

Neither Rick Rivers nor Bambi Fancipants had any family. However, a Last Will and Testament found in the spinster’s cottage bequeaths her extensive collection of Anne Summers memorabilia to the Brighton Home for Wayward Strumpets and her recipe book to her neighbour, Mrs. Amelia Miggins. She also expressed the desire that her cottage be converted into a new 20th Century Erotica wing of the county library.
A memorial service for both victims of Monday’s tragedy will be held in Holthorne-by-Sea in October.

Bambi is keenly missed by those who knew her. And sadly, her secret life will remain one of those great untold stories that is lost in the sands of time.

She is survived by her cat, Madrigal, who was last seen wandering up the lane out of Holthorne-by-Sea, presumably in search of a new mistress.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Filling in some blanks

You can thank the lovely @Beckicklesie for this post. She's probably trying to kick me out of my recent blogging doldrums, and I can't say I blame her. I'm a little off my game blog-wise lately, but in my defence, paying work has been keeping me more than busy (and a little dizzy too) and the news has hardly given me material for light-hearted banter.

Anyway, my cyber soul sistah Becca at has tagged me to join in with the Fill in the Blanks Meme - so here goes...

OK, it's simple. All I have to do is fill in the blanks, trying to be witty and perhaps a little zany, while also trying to impart something deep and meaningful whilst I'm at it.

Perhaps not so simple after all.

I am...

simply me, I don't know how to be anything else. And frankly I don't see why I should pretend. I'm also a trier, that's for sure. I may not always acheive my goals, but I'll certainly give it my best shot. If I could get in a Time Machine to visit my own grave, my epitaph would probably read "She tried her best".

The bravest thing I've ever done...
Probably packing up a well-paid job, my own flat and a comfortable Boho-Yuppy life in the UK in 1989, and heading to Greece in a bid to scratch some kind of indefinable inner itch.
I know that several of my friends thought I was off my rocker (and the way things are here now they probably still do), but I'm not one for regrets. Anyway, though I'm probably financially much poorer for it, I did meet my Soul Mate (a.k.a. the Ovver Arf), so I guess it's a case of "She who dares, wins", eh?

I feel prettiest when...
I'm with people who look at my (a-hem) 'charm, wit and personality' and not my dress size.

My favourite meal is...

I can never answer this question. I love all sorts of good food, so I cannot pick just one. My dream meal, however, would almost certainly end up with my Mum's blackberry & apple crumble with custard.

The way to my heart is...
Make me laugh, but with intelligence and compassion. I'm a great believer in the power of laughter - to make a serious point, to make us think or question authority, to disarm embarrassment, to show warmth or deliver a barbed attack (only on a deserving target, of course).
And of course, never forget, silliness does save lives.

I would like to be...
Rich and famous? Clutching an Oscar statuette and thanking my family for all their support? An accomplished boogey-woogey pianist? Able to wear anything and everything with flair and panache? Bloody brilliant at everything I do?
Realistically, though, I'd settle for being free of the stupid scenarios that play out in my head and keep me from falling asleep the moment my head hits the pillow.

So, now I have to do some tagging - let's see what these lovely people have to say:
@georgygirl64uk at
@FifiFluffikins at
@Bigfashionista at
@SmilingPamela at
@cosmicgirlie at

Monday, 14 March 2011

Sendai port, Japan

Sometimes, words just aren't enough...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

New Commandments for the PC Age

This week, my Other Half told me that he had read an EU directive stating that no official documents should refer to parents as Mother and/or Father, but rather Parent A and Parent B (naturally sparking off a debate about who should be A and who is B – it’s a bag of laughs in our house). But really, can anyone tell me what is potentially offensive about being labelled Mum and Dad (or Mum and Mum, or Dad and Dad for that matter)?

It reminded me of another news item a while ago about a school in North London that introduced a rule forbidding hugs between students, for fear that some embraces might be interpreted as 'inappropriate physical contact'.

So, let me get this straight. When they pass their exams, students at this school cannot jump for joy into the arms of their friends in a frenzy of celebration? Nor can they cry on the comforting shoulder of their best buddy when the latest love of their life dumps them? At best, I guess a polite handshake or a heartfelt “I feel your pain” might be considered ‘appropriate’.

Political correctness started off with the very best of intentions, in a bid to create a kinder, fairer and more understanding society. But it has morphed into a monster that makes sane people despair and gives ample ammunition to the bigots who pine for the days when they could slap insults into everyday conversation without anyone (apart from those insulted) batting an eyelid. For the likes of the legendary ‘Angry of Tunbridge Wells’, having the opportunity to justifiably fume “It’s Political Correctness gone mad!” at the drop of a hat is like having Christmas every day.

It seems to me that we need a whole new set of rules for this age of precautions and Political Correctness.

The old Ten Commandments we had into us at Sunday School are no longer enough, but I reckon the following are a good start - and there's 12 of them to reflect the spirit of excess that marks our new age:
1) Thou shalt not touch.
2) Thou shalt not question the Powers That Be.
3) Thou shalt not be thyself (unless thyself has been approved by an officially-appointed Commission).
4) Thou shalt worship at the altar of tabloid celebrity.
5) Thou shalt not go outside without permission.
6) Thou shalt not scold or punish thy children.
7) Thou shalt not take photographs at a school play without permission from the parents of all participants.
8) Thou shalt honour thy partner or significant other (the terms ‘husband’, ‘wife’ and ‘boy-’ or ‘girl-friend’ are hereby outlawed).
9) Thou shalt not risk... anything.
10) Thou shalt not answer for the consequences of your actions.
11) Thou shalt not reward ability, but encourage the ‘special talents’ of the intellectually-challenged.
12) Thou shalt not think.

But like all things PC, these new commandments must pass through a committee stage. So, please feel free to chip in with your thoughts.

English Eccentrics, Part 2: All that jazz

When I was considering candidates for a list of great English eccentrics, it became quite a depressing exercise as I realised just how many are no longer with us. And one of who has shuffled off this mortal coil is the late, great George Melly.

Perhaps the nearest thing to a Bohemian Renaissance Man that 20th Century Britain could boast, Melly was a rather shambolic but always nattily-dressed figure known to many as an erudite and entertaining TV personality.

But what really made him tick was his passion for jazz and blues, writing and modern art. Over the years, he sang, wrote, judged (as a film & TV critic) and lectured with the authority and passion that only a true eccentric can muster.

Melly was born in August 1926 in Liverpool and discovered an interest in modern art and jazz and blues while still at school. He joined the Royal Navy towards the end of the Second World War – opting for the navy because the uniforms were “so much nicer”. But, according to his autobiography ‘Rum, Bum and Concertina’ he was disappointed when he was not sent to a ship and was thus denied the bell-bottom uniform he had set his heart on. Later, however, he did see ship duty but never saw active combat - but he was almost court-martialled for distributing anarchist literature.

After the war, Melly found work in a London surrealist gallery, and gradually drifted into the world of jazz music, finding work with Mick Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band. His distinctive singing style was heavily influenced by his idol, Bessie Smith, and he rejoiced in the earthy bawdy side of the music. At a time when many British jazz enthusiasts treated the genre with almost religious solemnity, Melly stood out for his exuberant stage performances.

He retired from jazz in the early 1960s when he became a film critic for The Observer, and started writing the Daily Mail’s satirical newspaper strip ‘Flook’. He also wrote the script of the 1967 satirical film ‘Smashing Time’.

But Melly couldn’t stay away from sirens of jazz for long. He returned to the scene in the early ‘70s with John Chilton’s Feetwarmers, a partnership that lasted until 2003. He later sang with Digby Fairweather's band. And all the while, he kept writing, including the ‘Mellymobile’ column in Punch magazine which described his life on tour.

His humour was never far from the surface, as reflected by his recording of a track called 'Old Codger' with The Stranglers in 1978 especially written for him by the band.

Melly married twice and had a child from each marriage. His second wife, Diana, gace birth to their son two days after their wedding in 1963 – a real scandal in those conservative times.

Not content with his wide range of professional interests, Melly was an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He was also a member of the Max Miller Appreciation Society (Max Miller was a celebrated English music hall comedian and actor who died in the early 60s) and in May 2005 joined Roy Hudd, Sir Norman Wisdom and others to unveil a statue of Miller in Brighton.

George Melly was larger than life, brimming over with brio and with a wit as sharp and infectious as a contaminated needle.

As the end of the 20th century approached, Melly started suffering from a range of health problems, including vascular dementia, emphysema and lung cancer. Nonetheless, he remained active in music, journalism and lecturing on surrealism and other aspects of modern art.

His last performance, at the 100 Club in London, was on 10 June 2007, less than a month before his death at the age of 80.

Until the end, he lived life to the full – and I guess that’s the way it should be

Friday, 4 March 2011

Another take on Greek 'fast' food

This weekend is going to be a long one - but in the nicest possible way.

It's the first time this year that a public holiday tacks itself neatly onto the weekend to give us THREE WHOLE DAYS free of work, school or the need to get up at 6.45am (though knowing me, my eyes will snap open at that ungodly hour even though they don't need to).

The holiday that will give us that delightful gift is what the Greeks call Kathara Devtera (Clean Monday).

Like Pancake Day back in the UK, it marks the official start of the 40-day fast before Easter - but it's on a much bigger scale, like most things related to food and religion here.

Traditionally, for the duration of Lent, God-fearing folk swear off meat, fish, eggs and dairy products (although strangely, seafood is permitted). The "Clean" part refers to the fact that housewives used to throughly scrub their kitchens and cookware to be absolutely sure that no trace of animal product creeps into their cuisine.

Now, the truth is that few Greeks observe the fast for all of Lent these days (though many do in Holy Week, in preparation for the food fest that awaits them on Easter Day).

However, on Clean Monday, after the obligatory attempt to fly a kite (another tradition of the day whose origin is a total mystery to me), most Greeks can be found gathered at a table groaning with all manner of fast-friendly food, and having a good old natter with their friends and family.

Spinach pies, rich bean stews, chickpea fritters, barbecued prawns, macaroni with octopus cooked into velvety submission in a wine sauce, steaming bowls of wild greens, fresh crisp salads, aniseed flavoured bread - it's all good yummy stuff.

As you may have gathered, religion plays no part in my life. However, it is there in the background with the Greek family I married into - and it plays an important part in the social fabric of the Greek society.

I go with the flow.
After all, it's one of the few times I'm not viewed with surprise and suspicion for not eating meat.

Now, you might think that the Lenten fast is a great way to lose weight. Think again.

Consider the joys of chips, fried squid, fried aubergines, fried courgettes, deep fried prawns (are you seeing a trend here?) etc., and you'll see that we’re looking at a truck-load of calories. And then there are all the ‘virtuous’ sweets that the fast permits, all packed with sugar and usually swimming in syrup. Or my personal favourite, ‘tahini’ (sesame paste) mixed with honey, a delicious smooth and sweet nutty concoction that I can literally devour by the jar.

Not much chance of dropping a jean size or two before Easter then.

Now I do know that it is not really that hard to eat extremely healthily and lose weight while observing the traditional fast. Trouble is, I’m a foody. I love food. I love planning it, I love cooking it and I love eating it (so long as it is well-made from good ingredients). While I don’t think I live to eat, I do consider it to be one of life’s pleasures, so a week of plain boiled cauliflower is not for me. Is that a sin?

And finally, a question for any Greek readers out there (@HonestMummy can you hear me?). Fish and eggs are forbidden during the Lenten fast, right? Why, then, is taramosalata (principal ingredient fish roe) permitted?

Not that I mind, of course.

Pass me that bit of pitta bread.