Doris Downhill All the Way

The idiosyncracies of Itchy Ankle email have caused an unfortunate rupture in my correspondence with Doris Brazil. This letter was sent nearly two months ago, but, belatedly, I post it here for your reading pleasure, and have also included my reply below.

Dear Blabs,

I can scarcely contain my annoyance at the rank unprofessionalism of our town’s Mayor, one Pepé Rodriguez. Let me make it quite clear; I was completely unaware that you had been asked to switch on Appleton Marsh’s fairy lights. Had I known I would have made certain that Mayor Pepé had used a stamp of an adequate face value. He had talked about a mystery guest switcher-onner coming across from the U.S. but the rumour doing the rounds was that it was that old friend of Appleton Marsh, Lee Majors.

As it was, despite your non-appearance or even Lee’s no-show, it wasn’t a complete disaster. Local celebrity, pop sensation Kate Bush stepped in at the last moment (stepped in sensibly wearing insulated rubber wellies I should add) to do the honours. She even gave an impromptu rendition of This Woman’s Work, a moving song about child birth from, Kirsty tells me, her album The Sensual World. Mayor Pepé made a speech but, to be brutally honest, it’s hard to tell what he’s saying at the best of times. There was a long pause. The crowd suddenly twigged to the fact that he’d finished speaking, and they applauded generously. One novel feature of this year’s switch on ceremony was the carol concert; fifteen Carols from Appleton Marsh and nearby Tiverton (including Margaret Chaff’s sister, Carol Decker neé Chaff) sang Christmas carols ranging from Jingle Bells to a German version of silent night, which left me a bit cold.

Blabs, you would just not believe how busy I have been. After spraining my wrist on Kirsty’s ice scraper (I’ve already written to my MP, Neil Parish, asking him to sponsor an early day motion to penalise retailers selling ice scrapers which barely make contact with the windscreen. After 5 minutes furious scraping action, Kirsty’s windscreen looked like a skating rink – arcs of fine striations) it has been an ordeal to write my Christmas cards. I got the glittery ones out of way – best friends and people I want to impress – then came a glut of weary looking robins and dripping candles – close acquaintances and people whose opinions don’t interest me. The dregs of my WH Smith 200 cards for £2 collection consisted of bloodshot poodles and excruciating Yuletide verses – these were for DBLW’s most loyal customers.

Christmas trade at the shop is brisk. DBLW has a seven day, no quibbles returns, money back policy which is perfect for this time of year when, so often, presents are bought in advance of Christmas Day. Unfortunately this loophole doesn’t cover those last minute presents and every year it crosses my mind to close DBLW’s doors for a week to avoid the issue of returns altogether.

Pass on our good wishes to Peggoty and Barkis and let’s hope there’s room at the Snug Harbour Inn for the anticipated swaddled infant-child. I must say, it all sounds very festive across the pond. I wish we could be there although I’d have to pass on the beef jerky and grits. Instead I shall be going around to Flo’s. This year she’s not doing a turkey. She’s got it into her head to do a buffet and is talking about chicken goujons and a selection of mini quiches. Kirsty’s just as bad. She’s got hold of a Jamie Oliver recipe for vegetable spring rolls. The apple never falls far from the tree I find.

You must ask Hansel to send us a picture of the Christmas tree. I still make the effort with my tree although it’s rather a small silver one which has seen better days. It needs to be small because my attic is long since out of bounds; it has to stowaway in the cupboard with the ironing board. The tree is not exactly threadbare but let’s say it has a touch of Tunguska about it. I have no more than a dozen tree decorations but even they overwhelm the thing. There’s no point getting another one, not at my age.

Just in case this is the last time we correspond in 2010, Blabs, our friendship has meant a great deal to me over the last twelve months. It stills thrills me to know that I have a friend in a far flung colony. I send you my warmest wishes and hope that you, your friends and family have a peaceful Christmas holiday.

With much love,


Dear Doris,

Sorry it has taken me so long to be in touch. Between the broken wrist, two visits from Spud Hughes and tracking the fall of despotic leaders in the Middle East, it has been hard to get a lot done in the last few weeks.

I wonder if Mr Gadaffhi has ever shopped at DBLW? I fancy that some of his MuMus look as though they came from backstock? I have my eyes peeled for a green tabard but so far he seems to favor more sandy hues.  I wonder where he gets his mascara?

I write to you from 30,000 feet above sea level, thanks to the miracle of in-flight wireless. I am on my way to Salt Lake City, so, even after I land, I’ll still be 4000 feet higher than when I started out.

No, I’m not traveling to Utah in the hope of becoming anyone’s fifth wife (although I wouldn’t say no to being the second Mrs Donny Osmond). Instead, I am off to a very swanky ski resort where I will be discussing best practice in governance between gulps of Gluhwein and gusts of sleet-filled air. It has been suggested that I take to the slopes but an unfortunate interlude in the early 1980s has cured me of that notion. My one attempt at winter sports involved an Italian boyfriend, a Norwegian nursery slope and some ill-fitting salopettes. I was scared of the bunny lift and never even got to try a snowplow. Luge Lover went off on the black run and I stayed on piste in the bar at the ski lodge, wearing a fetching woollen hat and a brave smile. We didn’t last long after that.

The news from Itchy Ankle is that Gretel has her learner’s permit and so is terrorizing our narrow streets behind the wheel of my trusty Mazda, with me in the passenger seat. There was a dreadful moment last Sunday when I thought I was going to end my days crashing into my own trash cans but we made it safely round the block a time or two and no mail boxes, dogs, cats or little old ladies lost their lives. Worth persevering, I think, until she cracks nighttime driving and can make it to the Snug Harbor Inn and back with minimal supervision…

Hansel has been earning pin money (I wonder if that’s what Charlie Sheen calls it too?) washing windows for Peggoty and Barkis and, like the first snowdrops of spring, has shown his face in Marilyn’s yard.

The Chesapeake boys are going to put new french doors in Gretel’s room this week–next week at the latest—and I had a man round measuring up the kitchen for home improvements at the weekend. Our house–it’s a wee palace, so it is.

Anyhow, they’re bringing round the trolley and I can’t miss my free pretzels, just about the only thing they aren’t charging for on this flight. Wine is $9 (about 6 of your English pounds) and you have to produce a credit card to watch a seatback movie. I’ve shelled out for wifi in the sky and I’m not parting with a penny more. I’m sure I’ll be able to get a drink when I get to Deer Valley–they’ve relaxed the alcohol laws since the winter olympics, I’m told.  Perhaps I’ll follow your excellent example and have a Zambucca as a nightcap.

Love to Flo and Kirsty and Margaret Chaff (by marriage) and to Mayor Pepe when you see him.

Don’t be a stranger,

Love Blabs.

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.
This entry was posted in Crone as Pen Pal, Crone in America, Culture with the Crone, friendship, Gangsta Hansel & Ghetto Gretel, interior design, itchy ankle and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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