31 October 2011

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

The regular, should I say habitual, missive readers will have noticed today’s edition is late. I confess I am embarrassed that it took me this long to diagnose the problem. My parents have had a new wireless router since I was last here and this was installed by my brother who is currently in Indonesia for a friend’s wedding.  The series of text messages failed to reveal the password needed to access the WiFi and today brother flew to Bali withdrawing support in favour for some serious surfing.

 As I was off to the garage, my smoking zone, I for some reason looked at the router sitting flashing its little lights mockingly from the glass hall table. The white labels on the top caught my eye and I couldn’t bl**dy believe what I saw – oh yes the password! So I first checked the validity of the information with my kindle – I have recently worked out that I can browse the internet on it – and yes the golden fleece had been found; it worked! So here you are a day late but as they say all good things come to those who wait or should that be better late than never. You choose.

 Hmm I am writing to you from the Peak District where I am staying en famille for my mother’s birthday. She is a white witch as she was born on Halloween; at least that’s how I explain it. Mum has just read this over my shoulder and sniggered at ‘white witch’ – ‘don’t know about that, barmy maybe!’ This is the hangover effect that follows entertaining when auntie is on the guest list. Does sibling friction ever disappear I wonder? Not rivalry but a distinct edge of one up man ship! This week’s battle lines drawn on the matter of cyclamen (Auntie adamant that her sister had planted an indoor variety outdoors and it wouldn’t survive) and the method employed to serve a lemon tart! Oh yes we were dealing with matters of the most importance this weekend. The irony was that each of them commented to me that the other was behaving oddly or to quote one of them ‘she was just weird’!

 The Prime Minister may wish to be informed that Auntie and her friend will be at Prime Minister’s Questions this week. She was disproportionately overjoyed when not only did they get tickets to go round the Houses of Parliament but the PMQ’s as well! I do hope she’s not pinning her hopes on seeing Black Rod as I suspect he only dons full regalia for official occasions.

 Now I am a bit of a closet fan of Mary Portas and have been avidly watching Mary Queen of Frocks as she launched her new range at House of Fraser. I confess I wouldn’t pop myself into some of the patterned shift dresses designed to universally flatter but overall I admire the woman. She is gutsy you’ve got to give her that. Auntie and friend will be giving the new range the once over this week; I am confident that they will not be giving their approval!

 Auntie noted that (Mary) is ‘weird and way out’ – I waited for her to pointedly comment on her partnership with Ms Grazia although it is highly likely that this has passed her by. Her ability to hear selectively is astonishing on occasions. If it wouldn’t go down at the Golf Club then frankly it isn’t happening – just hum and look in the other direction; it’s remarkable how reassuring the absence of unwelcome detail can be!

 The most intriguing thing about the visits to London is the place the two ladies stay. It is the Club belonging to the air force association an organisation they both do voluntary work for. Assisting ex service personnel to access grants for support once they have left active service. The Club offers centrally located reasonably priced accommodation perfect for mid week sightseeing it seems. As they say if one looks after the pennies the pounds (apparently) look after themselves.

For those of us remaining in South Wales the Barry Gem offers two enticing opportunities to waste a few hours although quite how many visitors will be taking up the offers in these economically straitened times I don’t know. The Hearing Aid Open Day in Penarth vies with the Dental Practice Open Day for Invisalign and Tooth Whitening in Barry. Not currently finding my hearing challenged I shan’t be popping over to Penarth although Barry being conveniently within walking distance (for mobile mortals) the Dentist may be more intriguing. ‘Invisible way to straighten your teeth and improve your smile WITHOUT BRACES.  £179 starting price for whitening. Half price if you book Invisalign at the Open Day’. (Half of what is doesn’t say).

 As I’ve had crooked front teeth all my life I admit the Invisalign sounds interesting but frankly with the price of utilities shooting through the roof the expenditure cannot be justified sadly. The Dental Practice team are photographed in front of the premises with the women sporting unflattering frilly tunics while the (male) Dental Partner gets away with an all American button down shirt. Is this good publicity I ask myself? Obviously it is as I read it!

 The politicians both Assembly (Jane Hutt) and Westminster (Alan Cairns) have columns in the free paper. Mrs Hutt is reassuring with a friendly face to accompany her concerns about the rights of disabled people. Mr Cairns has paid for a professional head shot alongside the headline ‘Fracking Wars’. Mr C looks wistfully to the left middle distance as he reports his victory – fracking relates to looking for shale gas in the Vale a proposal with significant local opposition. The macho posturing would be amusing if the issue wasn’t quite so serious.I must be nice when discussing the local elected representatives as I have been invited for Sunday lunch by one of them. My relationship is professional acquaintance and I confess the ‘nothing special just a few friends’ scares me just a tiny bit. But the ownership of a gorgeous fluffy ginger cat that resembles and overstuffed cushion swung it for me. The cat apparently is looking rather pleased with itself as it has incurred significant vet’s bills for what turned out to be a rather less significant (fatty) lump!

 The Salon last Monday with Kirsty Davies was a small but lively affair with more debate than we’ve had before. Kirsty talked about life as an Executive Member at Cardiff County Council and how she balances working full time with the responsibilities of her portfolio (social services). The Scrutiny Committee she chaired looking into the Trafficking of Adults for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation didn’t find evidence of significant activity but then as she observed it isn’t exactly going to be easy to find. But then money laundering isn’t openly discussed either but it doesn’t stop the authorities putting significant resources into looking for it – but then this is lost revenue for the Treasury.  Someone talked about the night time economy of cleaning staff who arrive in corporate office buildings at the end of the day. Often women who speak little or no English brought in by minibus to work and then picked up when the shift is finished. How isolated must they be? Who notices when the invisible disappear? It’s a sobering thought; at least for me.

 By the time you read this it will be November, already it was dark in Derbyshire by 4 pm, and it’s like a glacial ski run into the festive period. As I mentioned last week this month I will host the final Salon of the 2011 season – invitations reminding you of my deliciously provocative guest who will join us on 22 November.

 So time to fish out the flannel nightie, turn on the electric blanket and snuggle up with Horlicks ladies? I think not – outrageous garish tights in jewel colours peeping over the top of our boots perhaps,  heavens layering is in and boiled wool is sophisticated in its chic cosiness!

 In sophistication



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