Middle-aged Swedish lesbian spoon art (Rousse)

My preparations for the World War II commemoration competition was going well. I had already produced a two page A4 document using a selection of inks in a rainbow of colours and my beautiful handwriting, I was confident that I had a good chance of a win.

To make this more of a certainty, I needed to accessorise the envelope for my entry. Where could I buy patriotic stickers or commemorative stamps?

When I entered the post office, I interrupted the two postmistresses mid-conversation in their native language. They were happy to sell me some stamps, but when it came to pay  I realised that I had no cash on me.

‘Not to worry’ said the older of the two middle-aged grey-haired lesbian Swedes. ‘I’ll just make a record that you will come back later with payment’.

To do so, she whipped out a wooden spoon, a jar of orangey syrup, and a fine brush. Then she painted an image of my face on the broad part of the spoon, complete with long sticky strands of syrup down the edges to depict my long hair. I promised to return as soon as I had found my purse.

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A sunblock bottle hoarder in dip-dye blue jeans (Rousse)

I challenged my sister J, who had always claimed that she was not a hoarder.

Why did she keep a collection of empty orange plastic sunblock bottles? There were at least 15 on her shelf, some of which dated from the 1980s.

Also, someone needed to tell her that my old dip-dye blue jeans did not flatter her figure.

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North Sea cello concert (Rousse)

At dawn on the last day of my holiday, I walked down to the shoreline of the cold grey North Sea. Already there were several brave souls in the water. Most were taking an early morning dip dressed only in skimpy swim suits. Others were rowing boats across the bay. I was not even brave enough to dip a toe in the water.

I returned to the hotel and met JG. He took me and TPR to the concert hall where our mutual friend RA was performing in his first ever cello concert. I hadn’t seen RA for years, but he had barely changed: he looked 60 even when when in his twenties. He was not happy when I made mention of this.

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Falling in love with a puppeteer and hill tapestry (Rousse)

My true love was a puppeteer. When his marriage of three decades collapsed due to the arrival of two very late children, he finally found me.

My new man opened my eyes to art forms that I had never know before. My favourite was hill tapestry. We visited the open moorlands to admire the massive feats of embroidery stitched on canvases that replicated the form of the hills. For their sheer size and artistry, these creations well and truly put the feeble efforts of the Bayeux Tapestry to shame.

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Lost in a forest, all alone (Rousse)

It was alright for the sheep that wanted to reach the pasture from the shoreline. They simply ran across the single track road, then leapt up the cliff-face, skilfully securing their feet in rocky nooks and crannies on their ascent. I had to take the long way round up the slope of the road and into the field through the gate.

But then I found a short cut through a small wood. I would be with TPR sooner than I thought. I worked my way through the trees, hanging on to handy branches when the steep path narrowed. I didn’t appreciate, however, the growing density of the wood, and the darkness that came with this. Soon I was lost in the forest, all alone.

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Paul McCartney confesses nothing (Rousse)

Now that I had Paul McCartney’s confidence, I risked a few words about my aunt. He was more than happy to talk, but had no memory whatsoever of their teenage relationship, nor the dedication of PS I love you.

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An unintentional insult (Rousse)

Through the car window, I thought that I saw KA wearing a long thin pale yellow jumper dress in the new deli in Hexham. I parked nearby and walked back along the road to the shop.

Sure enough it was KA, but she looked so sad. We exchanged a few words and then I continued on my way.

Later in the day I rang KA to check up on her. She put the phone done on me. In the earlier conversation I had (unintentionally) insulted the memory of her mother and now she wanted nothing more to do with me.

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Giving up on Argyll (Rousse)

I loved the beautiful arts and crafts house in Argyll that I shared with my parents and husband, so I was devastated when my father announced that he had had enough of the poor road links and isolation and would be selling up. He thought that he would be happier in Hexham or Stockton-on-Tees – but why?

I wished that I had not recently given my entire fortune to my nephew and niece. Otherwise I could have bought out my parents and lived the rest of my days in this idyllic Scottish wilderness.

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Newly-invested monks launch into Edinburgh (Rousse)

I needed to get home quickly to welcome our unexpected American visitors. This was a couple that we knew from the dot.com boom days of the late 1990s: we had met them on an incentive holiday in the US.

My journey by foot was slow because I had lost my familiarity with the layout of Edinburgh during the coronavirus pandemic. The biggest problem for me was Edinburgh Castle. I just couldn’t work out how to make my way from the south side to the north.

On this occasion I first got stuck on a busy dual carriageway, then lost in a tangle of cobbled streets. Eventually I came to a complete standstill atop one of the castle walls, giddy with vertigo that prevented me from going any further up, yet also from picking my way back down again.

I sat on my perch and watched the action below. It was the day of the monks’ graduations. Each one was dropped from the ruined abbey onto the lawn below as part of the ceremony. Their habits formed perfect parachutes to soften the grassy landing.

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Dover unprepared for Brexit and terrorist attacks (Rousse)

The channel crossing was pretty rough, so it was with some relief that I sensed from under my hood that we were finally docking in Dover.

In the rush to disembark I lost TPR and EF, but I wasn’t too concerned. I’d catch up with them at Customs. I trooped off the boat like everyone else following the orderly queue.

For a port preparing for Brexit, Dover seemed a little behind the times. The steep, rough path that led away from the docks wasn’t even tarmacked, and it was hard work for me – a relatively fit middle-aged woman – to climb up the hill single file with the other passengers. Also, there were no border officials to be seen anywhere. It was as if we were all on a day out in the hills together, competing to see who could reach the summit of the ridge first.

Everyone took their cameras out at the top of the hill to photograph the beautiful sunrise over the sea. Meanwhile I was still looking for TPR and EF.

A stranger informed me that my travelling companions had probably just cleared customs as usual and the continued their journey.

“So what’s everyone doing up this hill?” I asked.

“We’re just a party of photographers who wanted to capture the sunrise”, he replied.

Two minutes later, with my own camera poised in the direction of town, I clicked the button at the moment of a huge blast. My picture captured the moment that the windows shattered along the High Street. I posted it immediately on Twitter. Within seconds several media outlets started a bidding war for my amazing image of the latest UK terrorist attack.

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