Sunday 17 October 2010

A Mixed Bag

I was saddened to hear of the death of Claire Rayner last week.

I was also saddened at the way I heard the news on the radio when I woke up – “The agony aunt, Claire Rayner has died.”

She was so much more than an agony aunt. There was a great deal more to her than that. She was a campaigner and she fought so much for so many of us without us even realising it.

She was a writer, a broadcaster, a nurse, a supporter of dozens of charities and when she was dying in hospital she decided her last words should be, “Tell David Cameron if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and haunt him.”

She was also incredibly honest about her life, her childhood and her battles with depression. She had it tough and did she wallow in self pity? No, she got out there and fought to make the world a better place for others.

A courageous lady, a warm, spirited, funny, feisty, all round inspiration.

I’m going to get my copy of How Did I Get Here from There, Claire’s autobiography off the shelf and read it again.

Her son Jay writes a tribute in the Observer about her this week.

But there was cause for celebration too – the Chilean miners. Did you see the guy who had asked for his wife and his mistress to be waiting for him when he was freed? His wife stayed away. There’s a story or two there isn’t there!

What will stay with me though is the look on that little boy’s face when his dad emerged safe and sound.

Ooh and that reminds me of a dream I had last night – it gave me a fully formed story and now all I have to do is write it down before I forget it! I used to laugh at the notebook beside the bed rule – I’m not laughing now. I’m still seething about the story I wrote in my head while awake in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago, the story which promptly disappeared the minute I went to sleep and has stayed disappeared ever since.

I was going to tell you how I’d gathered up pockets full of conkers to use as spider deterrents and it reminded me of a short film shown on 8 Out of 10 Cats featuring a huntsman spider in Australia.

I’m not going to put it on my blog because for anyone with a spider phobia it is particularly horrible. But here’s a link if anyone is brave enough to take a look.

I asked my friend who lives in Australia if she’d ever seen one. Yes – she was having an acupuncture treatment and looked up and there was one on the ceiling above her head . . . In all seriousness I think I would die. I do. I really do. Those big furry tarantulas? No they don’t scare me. I wouldn’t want to touch one mind you, but big spiders that look like – well big spiders – that’s another matter.

Anyway I shan’t go on. I have a story to write . . .


  1. You've made me want to read more about Claire. I'll have to see if they've got her book in the library.

    My wife doesn't sleep very well so I don't think she'd appreciate me switching the light on in the middle of the night to start writing. I just have to hope my memory doesn't let me down.

    I've never understood this aversion to the spiders we get in this country. They say there are several species in every house and they help to keep the fly population down so they should really be encouraged. We had one that frequented our kitchen for several weeks so I named him. I still miss Eric.

  2. I read Claire Rayner's book because you recommended it a while back. A good read and an inspirational woman.
    When I worked in Malvern Theatre box office I had a fly called Elgar. Much nicer than a spider called Eric. At least you could hear Elgar when he was close by.

  3. I always think I won't forget a good story idea in the middle of the night. But no matter how convinced I feel that it is clear in my mind, I struggle to recall even the tiniest detail of it later when I'm fully awake. It's incredibly frustrating. I have the notebook to hand, but rarely use it from some ridiculous notion that my memory will work perfectly in the morning. And it never does!

    I really admired Claire Rayner too and always thought she spoke good common sense. There was so much more to her than many people think. I'd love to read her book now.

  4. Claire Rayner came across as such a lovely warm person and very down to earth. A sad loss.

    It's so annoying when you have a story in your mind, and then it vanishes without trace. It's happened to me several times in the night, and also sometimes when I'm at work and there's no chance of me writing the idea down straight away. I get home asking myself what was that brilliant flash of inspiration that struck me earlier. But nine times out of ten, it's gone.

  5. Great last words indeed.

    I just love dream stories, I start to feel a bit down if I haven't had a good dream in a while.

    Do the conkers work as spider deterrents? I have nothing against spiders at all, but we do get at leas two rather large ones in the attic bedroom each night (I don't know where they come from) I sometimes wonder if they are the same two, perhaps I put them out of the window and they find their way back home?

  6. If conkers really work,I'm wondering which I'd prefer; a spider in every corner (as now)or a conker in every corner (and, of course, in the the angle of the wing mirror)?

    Actually, I cured myself of spider-phobia. I wish I could do the same with heights...Perhaps a conker on every roof-top?

  7. Good point, Keith and another reason we can’t make notes in the middle of the night! It’s more of a phobia than an aversion. I think this business of them keeping the flies down is spin on the part of the spiders. I think they live to scare us out of our wits.

    A cultured fly called Elgar, Lynne! I met a giant cockroach on holiday once – my son called it Melvin and it was built like a tank!

    Glad I’m not the only one, Joanna! I always tell myself I’ll remember every detail, but seldom do.
    When you read about Claire’s life, you realise why she was so good at helping others.

    You too, Joanne! I had an idea the other day on the way to the park and it vanished. So the next day retraced my steps and still nothing. Then something quite unconnected brought it back. Wish it always happened like that.

    I had a good dream last night which I vaguely remember thinking would make a good story, Penandpaints and can I remember it this morning? Aargh!
    I don’t know for sure if the conkers work and I don’t want to tempt fate, but touch wood . . .
    For some reason spiders seem to love attic rooms don’t they!

    How did you cure yourself, Frances? I’ve almost managed to cure myself of my fear of thunderstorms and daddy long legs, but not spiders.
    Placing the conkers is a problem – I worry the dogs or children will find them and eat them so I’ve got them on shelves.
    I hadn’t thought about the wing mirror spiders – I found a big web in the hinged bit of the car door the other day – I’d hate to see the creature that made it.

  8. Teresa - do you really want to know? Ok. This is what you do. Firstly - you rationalise. You are bigger than the spider (if not, you certainly have a problem), adn in this country at least, they're harmless. So you have nothing to fear. Take that on board. Next, you start off by picking up a very small one, and build up from there. I still can't (won't?) pick up the biggest and hairiest, but I can cope with most of them. (If they were pink, with smooth legs, and walked rather than scuttled, I don't think any of us would have a problem!)

    But heights are different. Heights really are potentially hazardous. I'd love to know how to get over that one (that famous poster of men sitting on a beam eating their sandwiches hundreds of feet up in the air makes me feel ill just looking at it).

  9. Hi again. Just to let you know you can pick up a 'Sweet friends' blog award at mine if you would like to do so. Don't feel obliged to do all the bits and pieces that go with it as I admit it is all rather time consuming! x

  10. I can pick up very small ones, Frances. Maybe I should try to pick up the bigger ones, but they move so fast and they could be up your arm . . . argh! Agree with you about heights - I'm not good with heights either.

    Thank you Joanne, you've cheered me right up - congratulations on yours too!

  11. I so agree about Claire Rayner, Teresa. I was so shocked to hear she'd passed away. And I want to echo her words about the NHS!

    But the miners ... oh yes, what a lot of stories of human lives and emotions there must be, amongst those families! I must say I thought the wife who stayed away and said (in so many words) the mistress was welcome to him, showed great dignity. Could have been one hell of a cat fight.

    Hope the story from your dream has turned out well.

  12. A very special person was Claire wasn't she, Olivia.

    I think that miner's wife deserves a medal.

    Well I did get the story down, but I'm not sure it came out as good as it seemed in my dream!

  13. I read Claire Raynor's autobiography a while back and loved it. She was a lovely lady.

    PS I'll give your spider link a miss - have just had to evict a real life version from my daughter's room and that was quite enough exposure for one day.

  14. Argh, Suzanne! Yes I'd give the link a miss if I were you. I opened my eyes this morning and first thing I saw was a spider on the ceiling - so the conkers aren't working :-(