The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Monday, 24 March 2014

Why I am Giving up Blogging

Well, it never really took off for me.  I started it as an experiment, a self-imposed challenge, to write a short piece each day about something in my life that had amused me or made me go hmmmn.  It was supposed to be an exercise in that most difficult of genres, comic writing, and when we lived a busy life in the Northern Home Counties with the Husband at work, and The Lodger, and The Dog and a cast of other characters such as The Daughter and The Naval Nephew flitting in and out it worked for a while.  Living as the only female in an otherwise male household used to amuse and fascinate me endlessly.  It was grist to my mill.

I've kept it going fitfully since we retired, but there is so much less to say, so little to write about, there are so few incidents and occurrences I have struggled some weeks to raise a titter even remembering an episode or interlude.  It's not that our life is dull now, it's just a wee bit too dull and uneventful for other people to have to read about, so now I am bowing out.  No Farewell Tour.  No Testimonial Matches.  I an just quitting the stage and putting away the greasepaint. 

My job here is done. Cue curtain. 

House lights UP.  Please leave the theatre in an orderly fashion, your limos await. 

Goldenoldenlady has left the building

Monday, 10 February 2014

Apres Nous, Le Deluge...

On 23 December 2013 I drove our little family (your correspondent, The Husband & the Dog) the 150-or-so miles from mid-Wales to Oxford to spend Christmas with The Daughter, mostly along the A44. It was a hideous journey through driving rain, wheel-arch-deep puddles and streams of run-off almost all the way. After we had got there safely we breathed a huge sight of relief, unpacked our bags and put the presents under the tree.  When we walked around the corner a step or three to go out for a pub dinner that evening, on neighbouring Osney Island in SW Oxford, the tributaries of the Thames which surround the area were sludgy brown, high, fast, fearsomely full and in many places spilling over the banks, which they continued to do well beyond Boxing Day.

A few days later we read with sadness the national news report that a disabled man in his forties in a wheelchair had seemingly got stuck trying to go along a riverside street on Osney Island and couldn't find a way out or back, so that his wheelchair slipped off the treacherously muddy bank into the swollen river and he drowned.

We have had a severe sou'wester rain, wind, sleet and hail storms blowing in off the Atlantic about twice a week ever since. Sometimes they have coincided with high tides, to calamitous effect, as in poor Aberystwyth and Dawlish. The people who live in the Somerset Levels have been in despair for weeks.

And yet only NOW, when it hits the Thames on the affluent suburban outskirts of London, is the flooding such a major issue that BBC News 24 today mentions virtually nothing else except the Winter Olympics. And the cabinet has woken up from its Westminster Dream, the dream where it thinks it has the will and support of the UK people for this hastily-hatched and cobbled together Coalition Government behind it 

If he plays it right, this could be Ed Miliband's finest hour, setting the opposition up nicely for the next General Election.  It's an ill wind...

...if we just get shut of the jelly-jowelled, disdainful pomposity of Eric Pickles it'd be a start.
Perhaps these quotes, all from Eric Pickles over the last week, will help explain my present feelings of personal animosity for the man.  Check this lot out for slippery-slimy;

on World at One, BBC Radio 4

“The Environment Agency has got a lot of stick but I think you have to see the other side of the coin that right the way through from the beginning just before Christmas, that big tidal surge, the Environment Agency has been remarkably good in giving good, accurate information to people and remarkably good I think in terms of preventing more flooding damage than might otherwise have been the case."
on BBC News Channel

"I'm trying to get [in touch with] the Environment Agency to give them some credit for what they've done in the rest of the country and elsewhere. Actually, there will come a time where we may want to apportion blame, we may want to say it was a mistake by the Labour government."
on Andrew Marr

“We made a mistake, there’s no doubt about that, we perhaps relied too much on the Environment Agency’s advice. I’ll apologise, I apologise unreservedly and I’m really sorry we took the advice of what we thought we were dealing with experts,"

He needs to eat some raw sewage, with a side order of humble pie, and then resign.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

In the Land of Song

My classical musical life has taken off hugely since we retired to Wales two years ago. 

I have almost regained the level of listening, watching and doing I enjoyed when I lived in the Oxford area from 1981-2000. Today I sang and sang and sang.  Yesterday I listened - intently.

Last evening The husband and I bade farewell to The Dog (sorry, old boy, but you can't come, they don't do "dog" tickets) and drove a dozen miles to see Mid-Wales Opera put on a performance of Acis and Galatea, by GF Handel.

Here is a review, which enthusiastically agrees with my own assessment of the show and names all the right names.

I was enraptured, ravished, seduced.  We both were.  It was a rather silly pastoral mythical plot, as befits a baroque masque, but it was awfully well done. I already knew the music, but I'd never seen it staged.  To have both sound and vision was wonderful.

Et In Arcadia Ego, I thought.

I then again drove the same dozen miles first thing this morning to attend a lengthy Saturday rehearsal of Rossini's Petite Messe Solonnelle, which will be performed by Montgomeryshire Festival Choir on the second weekend in May, in the same theatre where we saw last night's Handel.

It's a stonking piece, in the same lustrous and luxurious C19th Italianate vein as the Verdi Requiem, only on a smaller scale; a delicate, delicious Rossini religious chamber work as opposed to Verdi's marvellous mega-bucks spiritual grandiosity.

But I think none the less of it for that.

If you live in Montgomeryshire, I will be able to order tickets for you in March.

If you aren't, I know several good B&Bs

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Time To Talk 6 February 2014

It is almost 24 years since I was first admitted to a psychiatric ward and diagnosed with manic-depressive psychosis (now more commonly known as Bipolar 1) at the age of not quite 33, and given the horrendously powerful and now rarely used drug haloperidol to "bring me down". My only child had just had her 9th birthday.

Next month she will be 33, so she is now the exact age I was then. 

I had a further five
admissions as an in-patient in the following 7 years, until I finally screwed up my nerve, all my energies and determination, to leave and then divorce my first husband.

I have never been an in-patient since, although I continue to take stabilising medication as my brain chemistry was permanently altered by the high cortisol levels induced by the intolerable stresses in my first marriage.

On some very rare occasions I have been abused, criticised and marginalised by people I had regarded as good friends, once with scathing comments about being "on tablets" as though that automatically made me inferior to her and not a fully paid-up member of human society.

Our paths have not crossed since.

However, my adorable second husband often tells me he married me because I am mad, not in spite of it. He loves the way my mind works, its flashes of startling brilliance, its sideways-on humour, my compassion for the sufferings of others, having once suffered so much myself.

I am a survivor. I own my illness, always have, and no-one will ever make me feel ashamed for having developed the abnormal brain chemistry that prevails in 2%+ of human beings worldwide.

If you have a problem with it, dear reader, then I promise you, it is YOUR problem! LOL (manic cackle, of course...)!

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Front Row Second Soprano in the Celestial Choir

Many years ago, when I had done a going-the-extra-mile kinda good turn for a young friend who was really struggling at the time, he exclaimed afterwards that my "place in heaven is assured".  I thought it was a sweet thing to say, but paid it no mind as

a) I don't believe in an afterlife


b) even if I did I thought there might be a bit more TO it than that

But the Jewish faith has it that whosoever says one life saves the world entire.  My friend was struggling with a profound and all-pervading depression and quite powerful suicidal ideation, so maybe he might have had a point.

So even now, some fifteen or more years later, his words stray across my mind from time to time and I think to myself, well what if this life ISN'T all there is to it and The Husband is right when he quips that there is just this life, and the afterlife and THEN there is nothing?  I then wonder, if I could create my own Marion-made heaven rather than just buying into a pre-manufactured one from some established faith, what shape and form would it take?  After all, if it is to be perpetual bliss, all tastes do need to be catered for, right?

I'd like it to be musical.  Very musical, with opportunities for all.  I'd like to join a celestial choir rehearsing great works like the Verdi Requiem, or the Mozart Mass in C or the J S Bach B Minor Mass, and I'd like the rehearsals to be taken by the composers.

I'd like to have occasional tea parties where we get to have a chat with our dear departeds who have gone before,  but I wouldn't like to live with them, you understand.  Too many other people to meet and greet.  I don't want to have a house prepared for me in heaven, but a little bedsit might be nice.

I hope there are pets.  But if not, I hope we get video links to pet heaven, like cute YouTube clips available in perpetuity of our particular furry and feathered chums having a whale of a time.

I'd like there to be no rancour if I bump into anyone I ever fell out with in any permanent sort of a way whilst on earth.  I'd like to assume that our final moments, our terminal illnesses and death throes will have be enough of a transformative experience to make anything we once quarelled about seem stupidly trivial in comparison.

I'd like not to have to bathe, or wash my hair, or pay any particular attention to any part of my physical entity that might remain.  Except for eating and drinking.  I'd like to eat and drink and socialise convivially without any digestive processes whatsoever, just a sensation on the tongue or in the mouth.  But I do NOT want "foie gras to the sound of trumpets".  I'd love trumpets of course (the Verdi Dies Irae would be pale relation of its earthy version without trumpets) but I cannot abide foie gras.

I'd like to sleep as much or as little as I wanted and always awake refreshed.

I'd like not to have osteoarthritis.

And I'd like to be still married to The Husband.  THIS husband.  Not The Daughter's Father.  But in a chummy easy-going sort of a way where we each get to do his or her own version of heaven without the other ever feeling in any way neglected or ignored.  Perhaps we could meet daily over one of those delicious meals where we savour but don't digest, to compare notes on which great mind he'd heard lecture that afternoon, or which great master painter I had had an art class with in the morning.

And after dinner I'd like us to be able to dance - effortlessly and elegantly - to a cracking 1930s big band in a divinely beautiful ballroom, waving nonchalantly to Fred and Ginger as we pass

All in all, I'd like heaven to be a very, very large and stimulating University of the Fourth Age on classy cruise ship in never-ending fair weather.

But I expect I shall get what I am given.  We all will...

Friday, 31 January 2014

Another New Year Already?

Welcome to the Year of the Horse, one and all.  The Husband and The Dog and I are going to mark the Lunar New Year with this recipe, courtesy of an FB friend who gave me a link to it.  It is from a blog by a woman called Fuchsia Dunlop.

Photos to follow, which will be added and inserted when I have some, including action shots of The Husband sparking up his beloved double wok burner which resides splendiferously in the middle of our range cooker hob.

Gong Bao chicken with peanuts
gong bao ji ding

"This dish, also known as Kung Pao chicken, has the curious distinction of having been labelled as politically incorrect during the Cultural Revolution. It is named after a late Qing Dynasty (late nineteenth-century) governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, who is said to have particularly enjoyed eating it – gong bao was his official title. This association with an Imperial bureaucrat was enough to provoke the wrath of the Cultural Revolution radicals, and it was renamed ‘fast-fried chicken cubes’ (hong bao ji ding) or ‘chicken cubes with seared chillies’ (hu la ji ding) until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s.

2 boneless chicken breasts (about 300g or 3/4 pound in total)
3 cloves of garlic and an equivalent amount of ginger
5 spring onions, white parts only
2 tbsp groundnut oil
a handful of dried red chillies (at least 10)
1 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
75g (2/3 cup) roasted peanuts

For the marinade:
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1½ tsp potato flour
1 tbsp water

For the sauce:
3 tsp sugar
¾ tsp potato flour
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chicken stock or water


"Serves 2 as a main dish with rice and one stir-fried vegetable dish, 4 with three other dishes

  1. Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1cm strips and then into small cubes. Mix with the marinade ingredients.
  2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger, and chop the spring onions into Icm (1/2 inch) chunks. Snip the chillies into 1.5cm (3/4 inch) sections, discarding seeds as far as possible. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Pour a little groundnut oil into the wok and heat until it smokes, swirling the oil around to cover the entire base of the wok. Pour off into a heatproof container. Add 3 tbsp fresh oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for a few seconds until they are fragrant (take care not to burn them).
  4. Add the chicken and continue to stir-fry. When the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry until they are fragrant and the meat is just cooked.
  5. Give the sauce a stir and add to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and lustrous, add the peanuts, mix them in, and serve immediately."

Thursday, 30 January 2014

I Feel Like Goulash Tonight...

...'cos it's just that sort of a day.  The wind has dropped, it is still and relatively dry, but relentlessly, in every bloody direction you can see, GREY.  Like being under a gigantic Eastern European, Cold War army-issue blanket.

There was some foolish talk on the national (i.e. UK, Scotland hasn't voted yet...) weather forecast of the possibility of snow on high ground (near) here, but good ol' Derek on BBC Wales was much more cautious and circumspect.  He said there maybe some snow on the Black Mountains with the odd flurry in Powys possible this afternoon.

Powys is a very large county.  I don't think my Dear Old Uni Chum who commented on my FB page last night saying that the BBC had said the rain would suddenly turn to snow at 7.00pm "where you are"quite appreciates how big.  Even though she and her husband visit here us at least once a year its very size and scope and variety of terrain may have eluded them.  Our fault for being such good hosts and so generous with the drink.

They actually met at our wedding, these friends, which happened in the Montgomeryshire bit of Powys on a glorious late-May day.  He was the handsome be-kilted usher in charge of The Dog (who was a mere one-year-old whippersnapper when we married in 2003) and sat with his charge on his tartan knee in the back pew nearest the door during the service.  A good-looking Scotsman in a kilt attending to a lovely wee West Highland White Terrier?  Oh how cute, you cry and yes! They looked divine! 

There was also a black lab in a side aisle, with her human family, but I am not sure the vicar (aka Perpetua from Perpetually In Transit) knew about that.  It was too hot to leave a dog in a car for forty minutes even with the windows chinked.  Needs Must, and we are all God's creatures. 

Our usher heard his destined but not-yet-met beloved give the Old Testament reading, from The Song of Solomon, yes that one.  She did it beeeaaauuutifully.

They got talking at the reception.  And haven't stopped talking to each other since. They got married three years later.  I love that story.  "Out of a wedding comes a wedding" goes the proverb, and in our case it actually happened.  When you think of the words he heard his wife speak before he'd ever even clapped eyes on her it is an uncanny, even slightly spooky tale.

Cue Twilight Zone music...

Anyhoo, no snow here.  It doesn't feel like snow, and I've stuck my nose out of the door and it definitely doesn't smell like snow, either, but in any case it's still goulash for us, 'cos it's just that kind of day

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Oh, OK, then, you CAN have some photos...but only a handful

Mrs Charlotte Dolly and her adopted daughter,
Miss Amelia van der Graff, finish breakfast
Edith the nursery maid checks on baby Louisa Dolly

Edgar the white terrier and Lionel the spaniel grow hopeful that 
Old Mrs Dolly will soon take them on their morning constitutional

 In the afternoon visitors call by to practise their music together
and entertain Old Mrs Dolly with Beethoven's Archduke Trio

The dogs think string instruments sound like cats,
but are well-trained in not barking

Friday, 24 January 2014

By Popular Demand...

I woke up at 8.30am this morning and then - wait for it - got up, put on some socks and a cardie over my PJs and then came down and made the coffee. This is some sort of record for late January. However, I am now at a slight loss now to know what to do with the extra time, so I thought to myself, I thought, erm, well may as well BLOG.

Because we are by way of being neighbours (five miles is cheek by jowl, almost, in the blissfully underpopulated stretches of rural mid- Wales we inhabit) I see more of my Big Sis (aka Perpetua of Perpetually in Transit on Blogger) than I do of any other family member apart from The Daughter, The Husband and The Dog.  Of late she has been encouraging me/repeatedly requesting/nagging me (strike as you think appropriate) to do a blog update on The Dolly House, which has taken shape and form, been decorated and furnished by me and had lighting and twinkly fire grates installed (thanks to The Husband) and is populated by a large extended family of dinky little dolls, all set in the early Victorian era of about 1845-59. 

The menfolk are between 5.5" and 6" tall in this 1:12, inch-to-a-foot miniature world, the ladies and their female servants are about 5" to 5.5" and the children considerably less, right down to the baby who is an inch-and-a half long and meant to be about three months old.  It took me quite some days to get into the swing of dressing them in handmade clothes to my own design, the very smallness eluded me at first, and my early attempts were clumsy and ungainly.  I ordered some specialist books, and watched various YouTube videos, and then I gradually got the hang of the scale, started using very fine fabrics (fine cottons like Liberty Lawn are particularly good but silk is a nightmare to handle), cut the pattern pieces small with a narrow seem allowance, pressing them open as I went and hand-stitched everything in the teensiest stitches I could muster.  I have even learnt to repaint the faces in modelling enamels, where I felt the need, and my crowning achievement has to be learning to re-wig dolls in viscose or mohair fibre, and add facial hair for the chaps.

I have been Very Busy.  I said so yesterday, didn't I?  NOW do you believe me?!

I fit and stitch straight onto the dolls, which have soft arms and legs and torso over a flexible pose-able wire armature, but have porcelain arms/hands, lower legs/feet and shoulders/neck/head.  So a lady has pantaloons fitted first and stitched to the body at the waist (and gathered at the ankle if the design demands), then petticoat skirts after that, then her outer dress skirt over that, and then the sleeves stitched at the shoulder, and finally the dress bodice over that, with any trim or lace added beforehand in the case of cuffs and at the hem, and afterwards for the collars or neckline.

I have a taken about a gazillion photos of the process, step-by-step, and also of the room settings and the dollies going about their daily dolly business.  I have put lots of albums of the best of these photos on Facebook.  I could edit it down to half a dozen and add them to this text, but the story and weeks and weeks of work would be lost in such an abridgement, and the choice of which to use will be very time-consuming for me, so I am now going to go over to my Facebook age and change the privacy settings to "public" on all the dolls house albums.  That way,  you can find Marion Griffin Bulmer on Facebook and view the photos at your leisure when it suits you, and leave the odd comment next to them if you like.

So there, Big Sis, you can stop your "encouragement" now.  I have at last done as I was told.  Obedience has always been slightly eventual for me.  The Dog takes after me in that.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

I've been Very Busy - OK?

No blogging done, at least not by way of writing my own, since August 2013.  The Dolly House took over, and then my annual episode of SAD shortened my waking time by two or three hours a day, then there was Christmas, and then visitors and visiting.  But today I thought, oh go ON write one, so I shall.

I have been awake, up and about, with weary smeary bleary blurry eyes, but awake since 10.30am! The Husband and I both have sight test and eye examination this afternoon. The ophthalmologist is likely to take two steps backwards and exclaim Mrs Bulmer, how have you been getting around without being covered in bruises from bumping into furniture? and hand me a white stick.  Either that or he will pop out my eyeballs, sigh heavily, give them a good polish with a lint-free cloth, and then fit them back in.

Mild exaggeration, but I expect tutting. Last sight test I can remember was December 2005. There may have been one since, but I didn't have any new specs made up, and I rarely wear the distance ones I had made in 2005, and only use off-the-peg readers for music and the instructions on packets. Use it or lose it is my approach to my eyes...the only part of my body I exercise apart from my vocal cords.
  I have about four pairs of sun glasses and even more reading specs from 1.5+  to about 2.5+in strength, so I am guessing my reading add has gone up.  Otherwise, except for the mornings, my eyesight is pretty much OK.

More to the point, The Husband is being tested.  As he has Type II Diabetes (controlled by diet) and a family history of glaucoma, he really needs to be checked out every couple of years without fail.  And because I am the female spouse it is rather down to me to arrange it, as I am in charge of the calendar and pretty much everything that goes in it.  T'was ever thus when a couple marries, no?

The Husband calls me the Social Secretary, when he is not referring to me as the War Office.

And yet, I let him live...