Two and a half years ago I joined the Tory party to vote for Boris, then unjoined as soon as I could. I’ve never been a Tory voter but I believed in Boris and never thought of him as a cliquey, old-school Conservative. Now I’d like to rejoin to keep Liz Truss out. She seems to want to be PM just for the sake of being PM – we’ve had enough of that. But I’m hoist on my own petard. The party has wised up to tactical joining and you need to be a member for six months to vote.
One of the many reasons we have a chronic staffing shortage, it’s said, is that Generation Z only want to do jobs that will protect their mental health, i.e. ones that aren’t too much like hard work. I’m not sure that’s the answer. I think hard work, and even a bit of stress, can sometimes be exactly what the doctor ordered. I remember when my mother, an actress, was 70, out of work and unhappy: so much so that she got shingles. Then the call came to learn the leading role for a play in three weeks and fly to South Africa. The shingles vanished, the play was a triumph and she was happy as Larry. Actors call it ‘Doctor Theatre’. Being needed, being part of a joint enterprise, working hard and getting on with the joys of life – family, charity, hobbies – might be a better recipe for happiness than endless concentration on mindfulness and self-protection.
When we moved to the country 47 years ago, there was no such thing as an app. Just as well – we might not have made the move. Neighbourhood apps would dismay any prospective buyer fondly thinking Little Piddlehampton safer than Chelsea. Imagined as an exchange about coffee mornings and yoga classes, they turn out to be a chronicle of disaster, with reports of donkeys choking on plastic bags discarded by tourists; stolen quadbikes; cats poisoned by anti-freeze; chalked signs on gates intended to tell dognappers where pedigree dogs live; teenagers shooting up in the adventure playground; barbed wire across the footpath in a farmer’s war with ramblers. Miss Marple, we need you.
Wildflowers are all the rage but my efforts never look like the picture on the seed packet. My first mistake was to think wildflowers would love the enriched loam we’d made for the apple orchard. But the grass loved it more and the flowers hadn’t a hope. The next year we cut the grass very short, scarified the ground to leave grass-free patches, sowed lots of yellow rattle – supposed to suppress grass – and tried again with another kilo of expensive seeds. Result: not so much as a daisy. This year we tried on a patch of field. We took off 90 per cent of the topsoil and all the grass, added crushed builders’ rubble, and sowed it with wildflower seeds reaped from one of Prince Charles’s Coronation Meadows (of which there is one in every county, preserved because they’ve never been ploughed or sprayed). And guess what? We have a field of oil-seed rape, docks and thistles. And grass.
My husband, who spent his life in the rag trade, said he learned early to ‘think of the angle’. That is, consider the motive: why is so-and-so offering you a bargain? Is it because he’s a nice chap and he loves you? Or is it because his goods are dodgy? I’ve been ‘thinking of the angle’ in medical matters lately, Do I really need the hygienist to clean my teeth every three months when I obediently use all those horrid little brushes and beaver away with floss and electric toothbrush twice a day? Or does she want the business? The dentist advises whitening my teeth. Why? Are my teeth yellow, or does he have his eye on the lolly? If you consult a doctor in Harley Street about anything, expect to be sent down the road for blood tests, and then further down for scans, and maybe across the street to the dietician and possibly upstairs to the physio. Are all these medics covering their backs in case you sue, or is it jobs for the boys? If Bupa and the rest weren’t meeting the bills, I bet there’d be a lot less mutual back-scratching.
I’m a sucker for magic bullets that promise to lose my belly fat. What’s the matter with me? I know that the answer is to eat less and exercise more. Over the years I’ve joined gyms, which might have worked if I’d gone more than twice. I’ve done every diet you’ve ever heard of (they all worked until I stopped doing them). Ditto health farms, slimming pills and hypnotism. Right now, I’m trying to resist some American online doctor who flogs herbal supplements that claim to reduce weight at the same time as fixing everything from anxiety and depression to acne, nausea and joint pain (none of which I have). I know he must be a shyster but the temptation will probably get me.
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