On Oscar, Alice and Black-Eyed Susans: A letter to Doris Brazil


I am so pleased that the moisturiser reached you. I do so share your frustration with itchy spots. The older I get the more cracks in inaccessible places I seem to acquire. Anybody who knows me will tell you that I am no contortionist; I am many things but supple is not one of them. Which means I struggle to alleviate the not infrequent bouts of chaffing which plague and ravage me. I have found, this particular brand of moisturiser, rather like cocoa butter, has a melting point which allows me to place a dollop on my shoulders or in the small of my back and gravity does the rest. What a blessed relief it is, to feel it trickling into all of those nooks and crannies.

I can recommend greasing a bin bag – it does work. I find that green garden refuse sacks tend to be more durable than their black household counterparts. I secure the ties to my ankles like birthing stirrups, and away I go, rolling around my front room like Alan Bates and Oliver Reed.

I’m still waiting anxiously upon news about Flo’s charity abseil. That woman is unstoppable. Better to wear out than to rust out or so the saying goes; Flo and I testing out each option respectively.

The weather is noticeably kinder over here. I shall certainly value this summer after such a testing winter. And how nice for you to have a warm weekend in the offing in Itchy Ankle although I imagine even that will be testing after your sojourn to spicy hot Puerto Rico.

Thank you for your kind offer of a seed exchange. Before committing myself I shall do some research on your indigenous plant-life. In my mind I picture mango groves and all manner of spongey plants that would find it difficult to adapt to the English countryside but I’m not ruling it out until I know more. Fudge could be the way forward; just a suggestion but Devon is known for its cream teas and its clotted cream fudge. I’m not sure how well Itchy Marsh is served on the fudge front but a confectionery based cross-pollination is bound to be less vexing for our border control agencies. Just a thought.

Do keep in touch. Toodlepip.


Dear Doris,

Much as I appreciate your offer of a confectionary exchange, I must ask you to hold off on the fudge. I love the stuff, but you know how it is: a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. Americans are dear people, but they don’t really have fudge in the way that you do in the West Country–ooh I can taste that dense sugary butteriness now. They do have something called Salt Water Taffy which is sold on boardwalks up and down the East Coast. It’s a very soft, chewy substance and, to my mind, pretty flavorless. No salt water is involved in its manufacture. It wouldn’t be a particularly good import for Appleton Marsh.

On the subject of Itchy Ankle plant life, we are famed for our crape myrtles, black eyed susans and all kinds of daylilies. With luck (although you may need to be one of my facebook friends) you can check out some details from the Blarney back 4o here and here and here

The other thing that grows like billy-oh are hostas. When I lived in London, I always thought of hostas as rather nervy, effete plants, suited only to shady spots in Hampstead and fussed over by women in sunhats and sensible shoes–the kind of people who make their own organic slug deterrents.  Here though, they grow like weeds. Slugs don’t seem to be big in Itchy Ankle–perhaps there’s too much salt in our clay from the brackish Chesapeake Bay.

Plans for the weekend planting got a little side tracked by Sawhorse Marilyn’s birthday brunch, a very festive occasion at a local waterfront hostelry and then Gretel and I went to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D. You have to duck a lot of butterflies and lowflying woodland debris but Helena Bonham Carter is very convincing as the Red Queen and really Matt Lucas (you know, him off the telly in Little Britain) was made to be both Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Shame not to see more of Johnny Depp without his facepaint and Hatter’s costuming, but you can’t have everything. Hope it makes to the Regency in Appleton Marsh.

Speaking of the movies, great excitement this year again in Itchy Ankle with the news that Barkis’s brother was the production designer for the Oscars. We don’t get to see much Harry Winston or Balenciaga in these parts, and the only red carpet is a rather tattered rug in the Blarney front room. Nonetheless, we all ironed our pj bottoms, scraped the mud off our crocs and dug out the mascara wands (women) and clip on bowties (men) to be part of the occasion. What a night!  Of course, we don’t need much encouragement to lift a glass or two in Itchy Ankle.

About Liz Barron

US Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia. Permanent address in Washington DC. Deep roots in Northern Ireland and persistent Belfast accent. Blogger,cook, mother, grandma, Scrabble-player and enthusiastic world traveler.
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One Response to On Oscar, Alice and Black-Eyed Susans: A letter to Doris Brazil

  1. Doris says:

    Dear Blabs,

    My goodness, what a fulfilling life you do lead and how you seem to mix with the glitterati. My friends, by comparison, do not sparkle in the slightest and the worst of it is that I fit in quite well. Our circle of friends is a non-luminous body; we neither give out light nor do we reflect it. The worst of it is that I fit in quite well.

    I like the idea of gathering in all your finery to watch the Oscar ceremony although the Oscars per se do not interest me. They are on too late in any case; I am tucked up and semi-comatose by the time the winners are being announced. I suppose the best excuse we have for such a gathering would be the Eurovision Song Contest. For many years Flo and I use to sit with a box of Tea Time biscuits and cheer on the UK entry but, in recent years, even that has lost its shine with the likes of Azerbaijan and Ukraine being given airtime.

    One correction, it’s the Rialto not the Regency. It’s a very small cinema with two screens – Screen 1 and the unimaginatively named Screen 2. The last film we saw there was ‘Avatar’, only a month ago in fact. What a waste of time that was! We couldn’t make head no tails of the plot;it was a complete bloody mix up and a load of nonsense. That’s the last time we listen to Kirsty. I only mention because it was in 3D but, because I wear glasses already, I found the 3D glasses over my glasses made the experience quite unpleasant and for the first half hour I was flirting with a migraine. I had no choice but to take off 3 D glasses which didn’t add to the experience – it was all quite blurry after that.

    The Rialto’s Screen 2 is a disappointment. It seats approximately forty people, cheek by jowl, and is little bigger than most people’s own televisions. Many is the time I’ve wished I could get up and increase the volume or change the channel. I shouldn’t moan though, we’re lucky to have a cinema at all. For many years it was used as a snooker hall and in the nineties it was a nightclub. Eight years ago it reverted back to being a cinema, for the first time in fifty years. Flo and I went to the opening night; they showed ‘Hysteria – The Def Leopard Story’ which I wouldn’t want to watch again but it was a bit of nonsense and we all got into the spirit of it. I’ve heard of Johnny Depp but couldn’t pick him out in a police line-up. Helena Bonham Carter I do know, A Room with a View is one of my favourite fims, and books for that matter.

    Salt Water Taffy sounds an intriguing confectionery and I wouldn’t worry too much about the misleading name. British consumers are remarkably tolerant when it comes off-putting foodstuffs. Take Black Pudding, which we know is oatmeal, onions and pig blood, or Pork Scratchings which is pig skin and fat, or Beef Jerky, those perennially popular strips of salted dried meat.

    Slugs are not an issue for us either. I see the occasional mucous-silver trail but when I do I’m straight out with my ‘Slug Killer’ pellets to dissolve the little gastropods; sans mercy.

    Today is my day off. Apart from half-day closing on Wednesday, Sunday is my day to catch up on jobs around the house and to put my feet up and perhaps watch a film on the television or else listen to the radio. I try to relax and to re-charge my batteries – which don’t have much juice in them anyway, these days.

    Flo has asked me around for Sunday lunch and Kirsty, very kindly, has offered to come and collect me in her Renault Picasso and to drop me back again. Kirsty is the closest thing I have to a daughter and her severe squint reminds me of my husband Joe which makes me think she could almost be my own.

    I must say your description of your flora and fauna was not at all what I expected. For some reason I had got it into my head that Itchy Ankle was set amidst alligator-infested swamps and the view from your window would take in mangrove and cypress forest. What a fool I feel.

    Well, on that note of self-flagellation, I must go. Kirsty’s picking me up at half-past eleven and I need to get my glad rags on and to make myself presentable.



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