Battle of the Brillo Pads

The Battle of the Brillo Pads      659 words

8th Nov. 2016


I’d never been without a Brillo Pad underneath my kitchen sink. How do people manage without a Brillo Pad to rely on in times of burnt porridge spillages, crispy bacon fat splashes or cake mixture drippings? Ah! I hear you say…’They don’t make porridge, crispy bacon or cakes’. Well be that as it may. I do!

I had a problem. Not a huge problem, but a niggling quest to clear the grill pan of its’ ever so lightly sprinkling of black spots. No, not serious. Some might say it was a petty thing to hang out for…a Brillo Pad to clear it up with. 30 seconds I would have said to clean the grill pan with a Brillo pad. And every time the pan was going back into the oven, the black spots hardened themselves under the high temperatures and came out glaring at me ,  rebuking me for not cleansing the surface properly.

So I began my campaign. ‘You don’t seem to have any Brillo Pads under here. Shall I put them on the shopping list?’

‘Er’ squeaky voice replies, ‘Er. Where are they for?’   Afterthought…….a kind word or two were spoken.

‘Um. Just this grill pan. Look. Some black spots. That’s all.’

‘Er. Well. Er. What if they got used on the Teflon pans…er, by accident?’

‘Well, they wouldn’t, would they? You don’t use Brillo Pads on a Teflon pan!’.

‘Yes, I know , normally you wouldn’t, but what if, say, accidentally, they did?’

‘OK. Well I’ll try another way to clean it up. Not a problem’.

And ten days passed.

‘Oops. Look, careful!’ in a panicky voice. ‘That’s a metal spoon in your hand and you’re working with a Teflon pan!!’ the horror was tangible.

‘No, it’s OK. I know what I’m doing. Just checking the sauce, look. Not touching the pan with the metal spoon’…..a kind word or two.

Ha Ha. Right. Clocked it. It’s the Teflon pans that are sacrosanct.

And another ten days pass……another ten days of further encrustation of the aforementioned grill pan.

‘I’m putting Brillo Pads on the shopping list.’

‘What for?’

‘I need them. Look….this metal pan has a scorched bottom now. A Brillo Pad would fix that in no time’.

Silence.    He has seen the damage.   Stalemate.

I wrote Brillo Pads on the shopping list.

Later that same day in Sainsbury’s supermarket.

‘Nearly finished. Just Toffee flavoured popcorn, chocolate covered raisins and Brillo Pads to get and we’re finished’. I look down an aisle away from my opponent.

Quietly, but with a determined walk……..very determined walk actually, very upright and at speed, he heads for the household cleaning aisle.

I saunter down in my own time.

‘Ha. Look…none left’. He is gloating. And I won’t have it. He is pretending to look fervently.

‘Mmmmm. None at all?’, I question, bending to see more clearly where the offending blighters should have been awaiting collection.

‘No. None. That’s it then’.

‘Ah, no. Phhew!. One box lurking at the back there’….and I dig deep under the shelf and grab my saviours.

The eyes tell me so much. He’s hurt and concerned. ‘Don’t worry. Please. I promise. I promise I will never, ever, no, not ever, never use them on a Teflon pan. Ever.’   A vacant expression is the response. ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you the Brillo Pads and ask for one when it’s absolutely necessary. OK? Is that agreed?’ more kind words to settle the dust and smooth the ruffled feathers. He’s going to be a bit difficult to convince. Best to leave this incident to settle and move on.

‘Right. Raisins and pop-corn. OK?’ and the moment has passed.

Several days have passed and I find I have a quiet moment to myself. So what shall I do? Watch a bit of TV? Read my book? Call a friend?

Yeah. You bet.  Came up lovely it did!!grill-pan


A Bird in the Hand..

ParrotWhen a joke backfires. Oh dear.

My new neighbours, Vanessa and Craig, with their two delightful off-spring, Reuben and Cicily, had a house-warming party three days ago; we had some lucky heather to give to them and since recently we had been talking a lot about palm reading and doing it in an Irish accent, I decided to combine the two activities and marry it all with a bit of a saucy joke.

My ‘ex’, John, used to relish finding a suitable suspect to play this practical joke on, but the recipient had to be particularly broad-minded. The joke went as follows; you take the hand of the person and hum and ha a bit and ask…’Have you had a parrot in this hand?’ The answer is always ‘No’!!

So, you ask for the other hand and say, ’Ah, but I see you’ve had a cockatoo in this hand!’ There follows some hilarity and coy looks. I’ve witnessed many a culprit but never delivered it myself.

On Tuesday I decided to try my luck at this ploy, but seeing the company at the gathering I thought better of it. So the following morning I gave Vanessa her lucky heather and asked her if she knew about my prowess as a fortune teller, proclaiming I’d often been pretty accurate in my predictions. She didn’t look too surprised, so I took her left hand, asked if she was right-handed, and proceeded. I deliberated and stroked her hand, then pointed at a line from her wrist to her index and asked ‘Funny question, but have you ever had a parrot in this hand’? ‘Parrot’ she repeated. ‘Parrot’?

‘Yes’, I said ‘a parrot’.

‘Umm’, she looks puzzled, ’why do you ask that?

This wasn’t going the way I wanted, so I said ‘Right’, and pushed to get to the punch line before she suspected there was a rabbit away, ‘you’re right-handed aren’t you’?

‘Yes’ says the suspicious victim.

‘Then let me see here. Ahah!’ But you’ve had a cockatoo in this hand I can see’!

She giggled a bit and walked into her new home, coming back with her husband with a grin from ear to ear.

‘How did you do that?’ She was absolutely beaming.

‘Well it’s a knack I have,’ I lied.

‘My mother wouldn’t have a dog in the house, so my father took me to Leeds market and got me a parrot and a cockatoo’ she explained.

Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. Can you Adam and Eve it?




Bargain Hunt

images2EC516AVFour beautifully spoken young men of maybe 18 to 21 years of age were shopping in my favourite Charity Shop of all time on Monday. Brittany is dotted with vast emporiums with a diverse number of areas for furniture, bric-a-brac, window frames, toys, and……..clothes. It’s called Emmaus. Some are springing up in England too now, so watch out!

There was a muggy mist prevailing when I left home so I donned an old waterproof jacket that my daughter and I share. Sugar lumps in the pocket; where’s she been?

I digress; the point is that these guys, all about 6’ tall, were rivalling each other at finding the most ridiculous things to purchase; by way of communication they bellowed and guffawed in perfect queens’ English at each other over the rails of musty wares. I was irritated; I don’t like it when anyone talks loudly over others in public places, trains, buses and……… charity shops. And, of course, the shoppers were predominantly French speaking. Every turn I took they seemed to be just one step behind me, and then I found a little snippet of a garment. They were still behind and most definitely in ear-shot as I passed the ski-wear and I still couldn’t seem to shake them off; it was all I could do not to smile (like a Rottweiler) and make some comment, but didn’t know what comment to make. The leather jackets passed us by, shoes, bedding handbags and now they were closing the gap. Finally I took cover in a booth to try on the said snippet.

My right arm lacks movement, in fact I had been for my weekly physiotherapy session that same afternoon, so the jacket had to be removed at a jaunty angle, aided by a yank from the extended left arm. Doing a pretty good elephant impression, hardly touching the curtain that was in place for discretion, it then got itself latched onto one of the hooks in the booth until a final yank freed it from my back. That’s when the handful of sugar lumps shattered like shrapnel up above the booth and down onto the unsuspecting customers. I pulled back the curtain just in time to see the ‘gang of four’ as they looked round in obvious surprise and wonder as to how a bowl of sugar lumps could land on them.

Open mouthed in total amazement as to where the shower of sugar lumps had come from, there were the ‘gang of four’….. or were they in envy of the tantalizing snip I was clutching?

Hands Orrrf chaps!




Not for the first time am I confused by the true meaning of a word or phrase. As a child, before the general use of showers, my maternal grandmother taught me that cleanliness was akin to godliness. And she duly instructed me how to be sure of both of these disciplines by teaching the art of washing ones’ whole body with three inches of tepid water, It goes like this; you wash up as far as possible and then down as far as possible; then you wash ‘possible’. Over subsequent childhood years this anomaly puzzled me somewhat, but no more than the second untruth.
Ladies, women, girls do not ‘pass wind’; they do a ‘butterfly’. Hence, ” Oh dear, was that a little butterfly?” How charming. And so it is that those points of interest were portrayed to me as a timid child; and to this day, phrases such as “No…that can’t be ‘possible’ ” and ” If only that were ‘possible'”…… get my drift, have childhood connotations that have little or nothing to do with the current subject matter. And a butterfly, drifting in the summer breeze, flitting from flower to flower as delicate as a , well now, how can I put it, bears no rsemblance whatsoever to my initial beliefs.
In France now, I have had many a juxtapostion with one innocuous phrase. ‘Ah Bon’ With a question mark intonation. Literally…’Ah, Good’; but no, that’s not the case, as you will see. Not so long ago, a particularly good friend of mine had been visiting me regularly at my home in France. Sadly, her husband, after two or three visits, was unable to accompany her and she came alone on these little sojourns. Some time later, he died. When I visited the local bar one day, shortly after his demise, the patron duly asked me if I was well. I assured him that I was fine but asked him if he could recall my friend, who had been present at his 50th birthday party. He could remember her well; so I was saddened to have to tell him that her husband had died. His reposte was “Ah Bon!”. ‘No’ , I said ‘Pas Bon’, Not Good, “Il est mort”, He’s dead! His mannerisms were testimony to the fact that the words and meaning behind them words were totally differnt.

Shortly after that, I was obliged to visit a specialist about a minor problem; “Have you any other ailments?” she asked me. ‘Oh Yes,’ I replied, ‘I have fibromyalgia’!. “Ah, Bon” came the exclamation, ‘No,’ I said, ‘Not Good, It’s very painful’!!

James and the Giant Gaff

1979 and my three eldest children share the same pony……a fat would-be Shetland called Willie. That is, until Mr Snow arrived on the scene. Willie was a black, rotund, hairy character with a most endearing habit of lying down to roll when the mood took him, even when being ridden. So dismounting was a skill the children learnt very quickly.

One Saturday morning on a Bank Holiday weekend and  ‘en famille’ we were looking at bedroom furniture in our local store. We knew the owners quite well. All was calm, no piped music in those days, just  the odd couple browsing beds and wardrobes, some flicking through carpet samples. Our friend James, the proprietor , wandering through his domain, spotted us deliberating over a new bed and came over to pass the time of day ( and hopefully secure a sale).

A quiet, respectful and gentle man with a kindly manner, he knew our children well and made small talk with them; hands behind his back rocking on the balls of his feet slightly.Willie I can see him quite clearly as he looked down on my small son and asked ‘ So, what are you going to do this weekend then? Are you going to get your Willie out?’


Buying a Pram


Joyce tells me there are at least twenty charity shops in Chester – le – Street . None of them sells second-hand prams.

But you can get a good one off e-bay for little money.  In the end she bought one off e-bay.

Joyce didn’t want another pram really; well, she did, but it was for her husband. Not exactly FOR her husband,  but to give to him as part of the equipment for his new hobby.

He’s got a cap with a suitable motif on the peak, an embossed tee-shirt,  casual slightly elasticated cotton trousers, for bending and  a pair of non-slip trainers.. To her surprise, the grand-children have taken a keen interest too in this pastime, so they have  the same ‘gear’ too….all matching. The pram was the last piece of equipment they needed. It had to go in the  back of the car with everything else so it needed to fold down.

Health and Safety measures don’t allow charity shops to sell used prams but that wasn’t going to put Joyce off. She still visited every single charity shop on both sides of the main road in Chester –  le  – Street;.well, I suppose you never know. That was while Ian stood outside, hoping for success. After more than half of the shops explained why they didn’t handle prams any more,  Joyce  simply said to the assistants, ‘Don’t say ‘No’ to a pram if you’re offered one……we don’t want it for a  baby. This is our telephone number. Thank you very much’.

It’s exciting having a new hobby. As a grand-parent myself, I can see how there is a definite attraction to participating in an activity with one’s grand-children: especially when it is akin to something close to your heart  during your professional life……well, nearly.  Ian was a sub-mariner.

I think Joyce is happy to see her family enjoy themselves, but, sadly, she can’t participate because of the new puppy. She has to keep  Sheeba at the other side of the lake as they while away the hours ‘of a Sunday afternoon’: and sometimes Saturdays and all of the school holidays.  But she assures me that the dog is really good company and that she’s met lots of nice people at the far side of the lake because of the dog.

Seemingly, most of the other participants have a second-hand pram too  as part of their equipment. Joyce can keep an eye on it from the far bank.

Have you ever seen a grown man pushing a pram laden with remote-controlled boats?

Recipe For Life

English: Miner's lamp, Stadium of Light, Sunde...

English: Miner’s lamp, Stadium of Light, Sunderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Pinch of You

Sometimes the best recipes are those  made in error.

My principal ingredient is

1 Whole  Makem (Sunderland born)  a.k.a. Mak’em or Maccam

         Do not  be tempted to replace this principal  ingredient with a Takem   ( Newcastle born) a.k.a. Tak’em or Taccam

         The resulting mixture may curdle.

Allow the Makem  to settle in a rural village in post-war Durham in a safe environment.

When suitably mature, press the Makem   daily into a local colliery school; at the same time, nurture a wild imagination. If you find the Makem at any time under a dirndl skirt, this is merely shyness  and in time the Makem will cope with this trait themselves – often combating it by displaying   extravert  traits with over-excitement.

Introduce before maturity a sibling Makem. This adds colour and flavour and purpose at an early stage.

At this point the Makems two generations above will now one

by one disappear, leaving the young to grieve and wonder.

The care of animals has always been a recognised ingredient to counter-balance loss and foster self-discipline. Rabbits, dogs, ponies will all suffice; in later life caring for others can induce the same sense of purpose.Danielle  and Parc 017

  Repair any lack of confidence at this stage: in this ‘recipe’ the Makem  became National Poultry Trussing Champion………a lucky digression.

Now add sporting ability ; I added athletics, hockey, horse-riding and tennis (Howard Kendall was my mixed doubles partner at Grammar School). A little drama perhaps ( Bryan Ferry was Malvolio to my Viola). .

 After a musical parental indoctrination of ‘The Standards, gently immerse an Everly Brother or two ,Joan Baez, a guitar and you may find that a morsel  of brashness appears.

One Makem could now well become two. Two Makems becomes four until early tragedy may hit; in my recipe a young  husband dies and a first-born is dangerously ill for 3 years. At this point ingredients can clash. Withdraw the natural anxiety trait if at all possible without disturbing the equilibrium. Tragedy is a good leveler and can contribute to enhancing others’ lifes by acquiring a soupcon  of empathy. However, this more than  troublesome hiatus in my mixture wrong footed the other natural ingredients, causing confusion. Mistakes  are often made at this juncture. Triumph over adversity can also lead to taking the wrong direction whilst beating a hasty retreat. Have a Wet Wipe to hand.

Here is where I added a false ingredient. Wrong-footed by events, but full of good intention and care I stifled the mixture with agoraphobia and tension. This rescue attempt turned the mixture sour, and a second tragedy meant that the Makem had to be saved by loved ones. Along with  dependents.

Remember, however,that  the true grit of a Makem, available at local supermarkets throughout Wear-side to the discerning buyer in Family-size packs, can never be totally removed. In time , determination, stubbornness, experience and family dedication can overcome (nearly)  all.

I moved my  Makem in it’s entirity to France at this point, whilst ingredients were ‘proving’.

 Here we can add  1/3 of an architect, 1/3 Rhythm guitarist/rock-folk singer and divide the remainder into equal portions of choir-mistress and gite proprietor /head gardener. Plus dollops of long-distant mother, grand-mother and friend. But too much naivety shows itself. The  Makem  did not foresee  the roller-coaster of emotions that would ensue. Watch out for any tendernesss if this segregation technique flounders.

My advice. Finally. Avert further suffering. My mix was looking pretty good when further tragedy bestowed itself;my Makem &nbsp demonstrate much care. In this instance, chance had brought true love and further tragedy in equal measures. The ensuing qualities were evident and with forgiveness and nurturing it  made for a good consistency.  I added here more than a smidgin’ of compassion to compensate for the devestating predicted results. Sadly, the catalyst to the forgiveness and care in this scenario was the soul-mate and  dies, leaving the Makem with a hefty  burden of loss to bear.

The Makem licks her  wounds aplenty this time and knows her person is now whole and equipped for what might be left.

The Makem was almost complete.
<p class="MsoNormal"……Essential ingredients…….

1         A Pure-bred Makem

2         Timidity ( including respect and a reluctance to be decisive and discriminate).

3         Determination to succeed and overcome .

4         Creativity. i.e. home-making, building bridges and commercial enterprises.

           A photographic memory.

5         Compassion.

6         Ability to forgive…… excellent ingredient.

7         Love .  Unadulterated. Essential for growth.

           Nourishment of animals and children.

8         Bottles that are only ever more than half full.

           Consider on the grounds of balance…..

           For  a fuller personality, omit half of the nervousness and anxiety that have proven   to be a downfall in times of dire  straits.  Adding surplus of less damaging attributes can balance a slip into an abyss of self-pity, doom and gloom.

         Don’t overdose on the panic buttons. There could be a misguided assumption that  rusing  head-long gets the job done quickly, but it’s not so….leave the bulk of that disruptive  ingredient aside too. I added that one mistakenly.

         Acceptance. This is a much discussed and rare commodity. Reader; if you find it in a generous helping, please notify.

Malvolio and the Countess

Malvolio and the Countess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        If anyone has tried this recipe before, could they inform me know at what point the worrying stops and pleasure takes over, as I have struggled to know how that ingredient is built into the above framework for life?

        Different strengths and proportions of any of the above qualities  will create a variation but a not altogether distasteful  Makem.

        Thank you.



Addendum: For the unitiated: a Makem made boats in Sunderland. A Takem sold boats in Newcastle. They are often confused, but a true Makem wouldn’ even suck a Black and White mint.