Cake, china cabinets, and Charles Dickens (Rousse)

When LM and I returned to campus, we were shocked at the neglect that it had suffered in the past year. We hoped that the new students would not be disappointed with their choice of university. Whatever their opinion of the teaching environment, however, there would still be cake for them.

It was only then that LM remembered that the cake was at my mother’s house. We would have to travel all the way there back to fetch it. Could this be done in six hours before our afternoon classes? Possibly.

At my mother’s house, my sister tried to sell us two china cabinets, then offered to drive us north again. We should have turned her down. She didn’t know the way, and two hours later we were stuck in a small town that none of us recognised.

However, not all was lost. We got out of teaching for the rest of the day in favour of spending the afternoon in the town’s Charles Dickens novelty shop.

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Stephen Fry turns up nose at roll up soap bag (Rousse)

For years, my little sister scoured the sales for bargains. Many of her purchases had been stored away unused for years, the majority still in their original packaging.

I took a pile of these goods to a posh toy shop in a quiet shopping centre. The new mother proprietor (complete with bouncing baby on her knee) allowed me space in her shop to display my sister’s items. I laid everything out on a table and waited for my first customer.

Stephen Fry passed by and I tried to interest him in a roll up soap bag. He walked away without a word.

News soon reached the shop owner that the quality of my goods was rather poor. When she inspected my table, she agreed. I would have to find somewhere else to offload my sister’s rubbish.

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Wool and sheep, sex and turkeys (Rousse)

TPR and I were checking (a) the stream that was coursing all the way from the pond to under our bedroom window, and (b) the encroachment of teenagers on our property as they partied in the catacombs beneath the Edinburgh streets, when my American friend JG came to our back door with her friend Mary.

I had completely forgotten about their planned visit to the UK to buy wool from British sheep, and to learn how to sex turkeys.

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Bars, cocaine, prostitutes, tattoos – and a gargoyle (Rousse)

He was staying out all night in dodgy bars, snorting coke, and seeing prostitutes, but it was the tattoos that really marked the end of my marriage to TPR.

The first was a patterned band located beside his watch strap, and the second a vine of love hearts that spread from the base of his left wrist and up his hand. They latter looked ridiculous on a middle-aged man.

The third upset me the most. Even the tattooist was very reluctant to ink in my name around the face of an ugly gargoyle, half way up TPR’s arm.

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Pink dungarees for Kitty Bennet (Rousse)

The speaker hesitated. Who were the Bennet sisters in Pride and prejudice? The audience helped out with four names – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary and Lydia – but nobody could come up with the fifth.

We were meeting in a public library, so I volunteered to check the shelves for a copy of the book. Novels were ordered under author names, but there were no Austen novels at all amongst the trashy fiction at the start of the alphabet. I asked a member of library staff whether I was looking in the right place.

‘Let me check’ she replied, pulling on the drawer of an ancient card catalogue. She then told me that she would arrange for someone to fetch the book from another section of the library.

I waited patiently until an assistant appeared – proudly carrying a pair of shocking pink child’s dungarees.

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St Cuthbert and a staircase (Rousse)

I had heard of people trapped in lifts, but what about trapped in a staircase? The irony was that I had told skinny June in the high heels that I was taking the stairs because it was safer. I was caught out because there were steps missing at the exits to the upper floors, and I did not have the strength to reach up to the exit, pull myself up, and climb out. In the end a janitor answered my calls for help.

Earlier in the day I got into a different spot of bother when I left my handbag on the ground next to a causeway. GW’s hunky brother kindly went back to retrieve it for me while GW and I showed RS round Durham Cathedral, and I related the life of St Cuthbert.

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Dangers of marrying too young (Rousse)

What a discovery! Super-sporty EH harboured an astonishing secret: she was the ex-wife of our long-retired colleague KC. They had married when she was very young.

EH admitted to me that this had been a terrible match, hence their divorce.

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Burglars in a pink Beetle (Rousse)

I raced down the stairs, across the lawn, and through the back door of my maternal grandmother’s house, in a bid to apprehend the interlopers.

I was keen to discover answers to two questions: (1) What were they looking for? (2) Why did they travel in such a conspicuous car – a dusty metallic pink VW Beetle?

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Rocks and socks (Rousse)

My work colleagues discovered that there were restaurants open high in the hills. You could even drink there, provided that you brought your own supply of alcohol.

We all packed rucksacks and set off. My bag was the most important: I was carrying the booze.

I had never been so far up the mountains before. The rock formations were very beautiful at such close quarters. My friend DJ and I paused along the route to replicate them in miniature by making carvings in the same red stone. DJ made one, and I two.

Rather than carry everything all the way to the restaurant, we opted to return our creations to base. We sped downhill by the ski run, using our boots as mini snowboards. This was great fun, even though I lost my carvings en route.

Back in the village, we forgot all about my colleagues high in the hills waiting for their drink. Instead we joined a chalet party. Here I made friends with a woman in a Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre T shirt. She thought that I looked very young for my advancing years.

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Luxury highland hotel coincidence (Rousse)

We had cycled for miles, mainly powered by TPR at the front of our tandem. Eventually we reached the tatty high street of a once-prosperous highland town. It would have attracted tourists in another age; now it looked very forlorn. Many of the businesses were boarded up, and the accommodation on offer was hardly tempting.

TPR turned right at the end of the row shops and powered us up the hill. In complete contrast with the businesses below, here stood a gleaming, palatial hotel.

‘This will do for us’, declared TPR as I spotted the £650 a night price tag.

Eventually I agreed that it was good value. This was when the waitress revealed herself as a graduate of Queen Margaret College, remembered me from her student days, and showed me several photos of the pair of us on an excursion with international students in the early 1990s.

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