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?




And to cap it all…….

I was reminded of an incident this week at the mention of a popular venue in Sunderland where our ‘crowd’ would meet. 1967.

A new-comer was a charming girl with rose-bud lips and flushed cheeks, bouncy nature and a poor serve at tennis; her fiance was a steady-away kind of guy, feet on the ground and all set for a professional career. Caroline and the said fiance had just come through a bad time together as he had recently been operated upon in the ‘boy’s department’. So we were quite comfortable talking in hieroglyphics  with embellishments in the form of gestures ‘a la Les Dawson’.

With the recent marriage of ner sister Theresa to a whizz of a science boffin, Caroline was keen to tell me the latest gossip regarding her sister’s chosen method of contraception. This was all new stuff to us.

Balancing precariously on our cocktail stools with all the poise and grace of the gauche 19 year olds we were, Caroline told me how only the previous evening her newly married sister had actually ‘lost’ her cap. A cap. Oh yes; I remembered not to look too naive and waited to get the details of how it was lost.

Now Caroline is in full flow, describing Theresa’s nasty tickling cough and how it developed into a full blown chesty cough so much so that ( now her shoulders hunch up, hands are splayed upwards in a gesture of vomit) during one nasty bout of coughing the cap comes out. Looks like the cap came out of her mouth. So I’m looking surprised because I’m worried about life in the future where something can be fitted ‘down below’ and it can travel up and be ejected through a completely separate orafice. Nightmare.

Caroline now registers what I’ve interpreted by her body language and she ‘goes off on one’. She’s a busty girl with a high pitched voice (shrill); she’s  beautifully educated as my Mother would say………by which we mean she can say the F…. word with a posh accent. The pub in its’ totality has turned it’s full attention  to the basically hysterical couple of giggling wrecks wobbling on their bar stools and it takes a full fifteen minutes of teetering around the bar, hands covering the mouth, cross legged for fear of leakage, before Caroline can explain the faux pas to the ‘crowd’.

Three years later I met Theresa out walking her todddler; whether he was the result of poor or total lack of  contraception I wouldn’t know. He was very articulate and told me that his Daddy worked for Winfwop Labowat”wheeze”. Start of a nasty cough.

Cocktail Stools Blog

Panda the Bear goes missing

Panda the Bear

Panda the Bear

You know how it is? holiday time. Hakuna Matata…..No Worries. Easy, care-free days and lovely sunsets. And the unthinkable happens. You’re ready to put the 3 year old to bed and PANDA THE BEAR has gone missing. At first you reasssure the toddler with the wide eyes and go about the apartment whistling but at full speed tearing cushions off the settees, crawling beneath beds, emptying waste bins, checking the elevator. And then, finally, when all else fails, the reality has to be accepted and kindly, with empathy for her loss and the importance attached to this treasure that has been  by her side FOR EVER, bed-time has to be attempted without PANDA.

As we were a little compromised on the sleeping arrangements, it had fallen to my dubious pleasure to be sharing a double bed with my delightful grand-daughter. So on this most auspicious of occasions I lay with her in the crook of my arm as she tried to come to terms with her loss, answering some leading questions in the wake of The Lion King and relatives living on in the stars. Yes, PANDA would live on and would never leave us. He could wel live on side of her too! Yes! He would always look down on us and be there for us. Yes, he may even send a message as Mufasa had done and certainly he would be cared for and be comfortable.

I was feeling embarrassed in front of my daughter; I had been in charge of her child and PANDA when he had gone missing. To her credit she had not criticised me , but I felt the atmosphere. So, I spent the whole night with a 3 yr old tight around my neck, whimpering from time to time, feeling her loss as my own ( hadn’t I myself told him innumerable stories, play-roled as his (her) grandmother , comforted him when he (she) fell, taken his (her) temperature, walked him (her) in the park…..and I found myself saddened for his (her) parting, when in time PANDA may well have retired gracefully and gently into the recesses of all our memories….if only he hadn’t gone walk-about. Through my neglect?

Morning dawned and after a fit-ful night we cuddled again and re-lived the horrors of losing a loved one. Breakfast was shoved to one side by our little girl whose life normally revolved around food. 

The beach held little allure. The bird park? No thank-you.

Misery set in and it was decided to make a pro-active approach and a concerted onslaught on Agadir’s souk, retrace my steps, in a last ditch attempt to find PANDA. Agadir has the third largest souk in North Africa; around 1500 stalls. Some time later, concluding that we were on a hiding to nothing, we aborted our efforts and packed up the necesary articles for the beach. The day passed in a silent, tense atmosphere.

Returning to the car to go back to the apartment, my daughter and I were still passing brief smiles in a mute stand-off, smiling like Rottweilers. She was smarting too for her little girl and her first taste of loss and it was all my fault. No need for words. And in return, I felt so, so bad.

Buckets and spades in the boot. Half eaten pic-nic jettisoned into a nearby bin and we climbed into the car.


Shut your eyes everybody! 

Open your eyes everybody! Look who’s here?

PANDAAAAAAAAA. You naughty boy (girl……depending on role at the time). Oh ‘We Love You’. 

Relief. Relief.

And all that bereavement counselling; for a grey, (once pretty pink and white) PANDA of dubious gender and indeterminate nomenclature and of a dimished substance due to excessive loving; showing vestiges of marmite and sand, sporting a threadbare nose, flattened ears and an understanding , forgiving and unconditional love. 

No, that’s not the end of the story. Home again, PANDA had the misfortune to fall into the toilet. No worries. I was in hospital at the time and my daughter merely shoved him in the washing machine, pleased to have an excuse to brighten the flattened fur. An hour reposing on the wood burning stove would mean he was ready for life in the fast lane again the following day. If only she hadn’t dropped off to sleep, waking to the smell of burnt polyester and the outline of a molten face embedded on the top surface of the stove. She cried. We all cried. But his memory lives on for all to see, emblazoned as he is in a white, dusty PANDA outline on top of the stove. Death by mis-adventure. Glad I had a reliable alibi for my whereabouts that fateful night!

Fawcett Street and the reluctant Sprinter

budMy sister inherited from our grandmother a musquash coat. In those days it was not frowned upon to wear animal fur, it was just a pity that my sisters’ resemblance to Bud Flannigan was so strong when she wore it. Our ‘Nana’, on the other hand, was upright, forthright and staunch and carried her coat with great aplomb. It was usually taken for airings twice weekly to the cafe at Binns department store, for coffee mornings with the girls; the girls were 70-80 years of age and in competition for the best-dressed lady. Nana would make a grand entrance onto the carpeted floor taking her seat with a casual air, the fur coat bedecked with a lizard marquasite brooch, a silk scarf lightly folded across the pearl necklace, felt hats were a must, leather handbag and gloves, silk stockings and a goodly portion of foundation cream, rouge and  a heavy-weight lipstick.

One fateful day, my father ( her son-in-law, Billly) had visited her for some reason and was making his way home through the town centre;it was agreed that he would take her by car into Fawcett Street and drop her outside of Binns.
A short trip by car and he pulled up at her destination; she alighted, pushed the car door shut and her taxi took off from the pavement…..with her in tow!!
Sadly, the furcoat hem had got trapped in the car door and it wasn’t going to let go! So as the car gained momentum, so did the reluctant follower, taking longer and longer strides down the main street in Sunderland; the imagination can have a field day with the apparition that must have been, apparently the sprinter was letting fly with the handbag, trying to keep the hat attached, silk scarf flying in the wind. It wasn’t until the applauding public caught the drivers’ eye that ‘Billy’ saw the fright that was his mother-in-law in full flow out of the passenger window.
The fur coat stayed intact long after it became a Bud Flannigan costume whereas relations between the two relations were at a stand off for some time afterwards.



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?’