The Incomplete Doris Brazil Correspondence

The Crone hates to be tetchy with her readers, but really sometimes she wants to shout “just keep up”. But she knows people are busy with flossing and going to the drycleaners and eyeing up other people’s life partners and wondering whether they took their pills today and suchlike, and so they don’t always have the time they need to devote to following the development of wholesome and life-enriching relationships. And it would be a shame if they missed out. So here, for those who need it from beginning to end, is the story of the Doris Brazil Correspondence.

The Crone was sitting at home one day and gloating about the downfall of Iris Robinson. Idly googling the name of Northern Ireland’s first fallen woman she was directed to the musings of one Doris Brazil. Doris, a prolific blogger from an English backwater, had invented an Iris Index to measure the bedability of various young men by the Saga crowd. The Crone, although not 50 until..well, not for quite a while…loved it and wrote to Doris to compliment her on her lively imagination and entrancing turn of phrase. Soon she was hooked on postings from Doris’s home town of Appleton Marsh and so conceived the idea of proposing a twinning arrangement with Itchy Ankle. The rest, as they say, is up there with Anne Frank, Abelard and Heloise, Nancy and Ronnie, George Bernard Shaw, Henry James, Keith Flett and Ellie Light. (honestly, linking takes forever–look them up yourself)

The Crone has taken great care to order these chronologically from top to bottom, even though that is not how it goes in the bloggosphere. Enjoy–and check out the deep background at

A proposal to twin Itchy Ankle with Appleton Marsh

January 16, 2010 at 6:56 am (Crone as Pen Pal, Culture with the Crone, itchy ankle) · Edit
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Dear Doris Brazil,

I am writing on behalf of the people of Itchy Ankle in the hope that you may be able to use your influence in Appleton Marsh: we would like to be twinned with you.

Based on your blog, the pace of life in Appleton Marsh is much the same as that enjoyed in Itchy Ankle. Together the two towns could celebrate almost nothing happening. While Itchy Ankle does not boast its own women’s outfitters, or even its own charity shop, we do have a store or two selling blood worms, a full service garage and a party store with cut-price balloons. In other words, lots of opportunities to make your own fun.

I realize that you may find it necessary to know more about our humble hamlet before you could commit Appleton Marsh to a long term cross-Atlantic partnership. You and Flo would be very welcome to visit. I don’t have my own Parker Knoll but the Blarney abode offers a great deal of wing-chaired comfort. As my sister, the Cackler, has pointed out, with just a whiff or urine it could pass for an old-peoples’ home.

My pouffe, of course, is also at your disposal. You’d be wise to bring your own Toffifees but our local coffee shop  does sell excellent peanut brittle, and Peggoty always has a wine box on the go.

Thank you for considering this request. Here’s to a long and enduring partnership between Itchy Ankle and Appleton Marsh.

The Blarney Crone


  • Doris said,

    January 16, 2010 at 9:40 am · Edit

    Dear Blarney Crone,

    I’m not sure if you realised it but Appleton Marsh is already twinned with the Palestinian Authority of Gaza. On reflection, this cooperative arrangement has not brought about the cultural and commercial benefits our town’s elders had hoped for. Recently we had the devil’s own job persuading our own Appleton Marsh Choral Society to perform out in Gaza.

    Although we didn’t know it at the time, Gaza, it turns out, is quite a troubled place; a hotspot of unrest not unlike Torquay. We failed to do our research and, on reflection, Gaza was not perhaps the most suitable choice of twin town.

    Until now the town council has been very mindful of the impact on Gaza (and let’s not fool ourselves, the stability of the region) that canceling its twinning arrangement with Appleton Marsh would have. But, as a leading business woman in this town, I would be the first to argue that we must put our own commercial interests first. I feel it is time to move on.

    Now, about Itchy Ankle. Firstly, let me express my gratitude for your approach and for offering to roll out the red carpet for myself and Flo. I hesitate to call Itchy Ankle a backwater because it obviously has its attractions, but I always like to play with a straight bat and I feel I should make you aware that Appleton Marsh town council’s has high hopes for its next twinning arrangement. At the moment our lofty ambitions are to bag a major European capital. And you won’t be surprised to learn, with Doris Brazil Ladies Wear in mind, that I shall be lobbying for Paris or Milan.

    Please don’t think I am dismissing outright the prospect of Itchy Ankle and Appleton Marsh pairing up at some point in the future. Every relationship has to start somewhere even if it is difficult to imagine sustaining a courtship based upon blood-worms and balloons. I am certainly very fond of peanut brittle, although I find it considerably less brittle than my own teeth.

    Leave it with me. I shall raise it in AOB at the next town council meeting (March) and report back to you and the residents of Itchy Ankle.

    With kindest regards,

    Doris Brazil

  • merewoman said,

    January 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm · Edit

    Oh yes! So glad to see that you have made contact with my dear friend Doris, a lady of advanced years but progressive ideas and lots of spunk.The twinning will give her an unnecessary excuse to indulge in the Harvey’s Bristol Cream (I believe that she may have a tendency in that direction, but please don’t tell her I said so.)

  • The Crone fancies she has found a penpal, the excellent Doris Brazil from Appleton Marsh in the South of England. You can follow Doris’s activities here and catch up on the Crone’s latest outreach below (hope it doesn’t sound too needy…)

     Dear Doris,

    I note with interest your publishing plans and wish you good luck with your venture–and with your outreach to Paris or Milan as obvious cultural and commercial partners for your town.

    I’m afraid we got a bit ahead of ourselves in Itchy Ankle. In the hopes of a visit from you and Flo, and, in the fullness of time, perhaps the Mayor and other dignitaries from Appleton Marsh, we spruced things up a bit. The blood worms sign, formerly on tattered cardboard and written with marker, has been freshly lettered and laminated, although the Crone notices that it is still hung at a somewhat tipsy angle. We sent a skip or two round to the home of a neighbor who hoards (poor dear) and had a bit of a clear-out–long overdue. We persuaded the party store to invest in half a hundredweight of bunting.

    It seems a shame to let all this go to waste and so, as you race through your memoirs, please consider a book tour of the States that takes in Itchy Ankle. We can rent the anteroom at the local Moose Lodge. I’ll cater. They can clear out just enough of the Coors crates to let us sit down and I think that’s where they store the 4th of July decorations which we can use to jolly the place up. Itchy Ankle doesn’t have a book club per se ( the last thing I read: “The back of the winebox” by Jade Edd-Palate) but I am confident we can muster a good crowd. Just mention crab dip and they’re usually there…

    No need to wait for the trilogy–or even the first print run–a short reading from the manuscript of “Setting Up The Applecart” will be quite enough excitement for us. Flo, of course, will be welcome too, even if she doesn’t contribute much to the cultural life of Itchy Ankle. Perhaps she could pass the crackers?

    Anyhow, good luck with your writing and please do invest in a good pen. Nothing worse than a scratchy nib.

    Living with Disappointment

    February 4, 2010 at 8:06 pm (Crone as Pen Pal, Crone as fashion icon, Culture with the Crone, Tales of a Belfast girlhood, itchy ankle, junk, yard sale, yard sale finds) · Edit
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    The Crone will admit to being a little crushy on Doris Brazil, for the Crone has a long history of looking up to much older women with a lot to say for themselves. 

    As a child, the Crone’s idols were Barbara Castle, Val from Blue Peter, Esther Rantzen, and Anna Raeburn when she was the agony aunt at Woman magazine. (For American readers, this is like loving Senator Mikulski, combined with Katie Couric, Maureen Dowd and Naomi Wolf) Now, the Crone fancies she has Doris. This, you understand is not a crush in the sense that Ellen Degeneres might look up to Eleanor Roosevelt–for a start, Doris is very much alive, and the Crone is not as good a dancer as Ellen. 

    Whatever the motivation, the Crone finds much to admire in Doris Brazil. Sartorially challenged, she yearns for a mentor who can help her match her separates and work out the best color and cut for her clothing. Who better than a successful ladies outfitter? Doris’s attachment to her Bissell and her hostess trolley also indicate that she is wedded to kitchen equipment from the 1950s-70s and of course the Crone devotes her entire weekend to sourcing this sort of stuff at Itchy Ankle yard sales. 

     Could probably do with a once-over with a feather duster. But some of us don’t have Flo at our beck and call 
    If only the Brazil Bissell could get under the Crone’s kitchen table 
    The Crone’s granny’s butter dish, now very much at home in Itchy Ankle 
  • As regular readers know, the Crone’s heart leapt when she got Doris as far as Co-Operative Travel to check out safe passage to Itchy Ankle.  She stocked up on Croft Original and took a girlish pleasure in boil washing her dish clothes and upgrading the handtowels and investing in matching linens for the put-you-up. Cushions were plumped, rugs were vacuumed and blinds were straightened. Since then, nothing. It’s like the time the Crone sent her play to Blue Peter expecting Val to insist it be performed for the Christmas special, with the script reproduced in the Blue Peter annual. A bitter, bitter disappointment. 

    They never asked for the publishing rights to one of the Crone’s early works–but she bought the annual nonetheless. At the Co-Operative, as it happens. In the sale after Christmas. With dividend stamps 


  • Great news–we’ve made contact with Appleton Marsh and Doris may make a royal visit to Itchy Ankle after all! You can add your entreaties to Ms Brazil here or send her anything she may find it helpful to know about Itchy Ankle. Fingers crossed it all goes well at Co-Operative Travel…

    Dear Blarney Crone,

    You must convey my gratitude to the residents of Itchy Ankle for the way they have taken Flo and me to their hearts. I was quite touched to read about the re-direction of local community funds in anticipation of our visit.

    I had better tell you now, to avoid disappoint down the line; Flo is not a good traveller. Only recently, on a short bus trip into Cheriton Bishop, we thought Flo had developed deep vein thrombosis. She had to shift position more than a dozen times before the pain subsided. We now think it was cramp but those were anxious moments I can tell you. It’s perhaps not such a bad thing if Flo stays behind, after all,someone needs to look after the Doris Brazil empire, and Flo is the obvious choice. She can find her way around the stockroom and knows how to operate the till, as you’d expect after thirty years working there.

    I do agree with you about the value of a good pen. For many years I used a Parker Duofold, a gift from the Appleton Marsh Town Council for organising the very first, and as it turned out the very last, Over Sixties County Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship. I say I “used a Parker Duofold” because I now favour a rather less elegant gel pen, but it writes beautifully.

    Medieval it may be but Itchy Ankle has worked its way into my affections and, on Monday, I shall going into the Co-Operative Travel and enquiring about the cost of flights to your charming and welcoming backwater.

    Get the crab dip out, Doris Brazil is going into the Co-Operative Travel to enquire about the cost of flights to your charming and welcoming backwater!

    Leave a Comment

    Non-stop to Itchy Ankle? Sorry, not available

    February 7, 2010 at 9:58 pm (Crone as Pen Pal, itchy ankle) · Edit
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    The correspondence grows between the Crone and her new penpal in Appleton Marsh. The latest from Doris Brazil is reproduced in full below. It’s like Dear Daddy Long Legs meets 84 Charing Cross Road and the Crone can only hope that someone invests in the film rights forthwith. It’s a shame that Co-Operative Travel couldn’t rise to the challenge of non-stop to Itchy Ankle but the Crone will continue to save airmiles and put pennies in a jar so she can one day visit Doris and buy one of everything in her size at the ladies outfitters.

    The Crone will acknowledge that the ardent tone of the note below slightly took her by surprise. Doris, perhaps, didn’t get everything she needed from the late Mr Brazil? Or it could be that she simply likes the look of the Crone’s soft furnishings and got carried away at her keyboard? Perhaps the Crone will leave it for a day or two before writing back–it’s just not fair to lead anyone on.


    My dear Blarneycrone,

    Such kind words from afar. Let me assure you, the admiration is entirely mutual.

    As I type my heart is all of a flutter. Surely this is how it must feel for those desperately lonely women who correspond with murderers on death row. You and I have made a connection and if it wasn’t for our age difference, which is substantive, then a civil ceremony might be on the cards.

    Just imagine the resources such a union would have thrown together… my Bissell and hostess trolley, your darling kitchen chairs and butter dish, my Goblin teasmade and your plump cushions. I could have opened a branch of Doris Brazil Ladies Wear in Itchy Ankle while Flo took care of the European Division. We might have based ourselves in Itchy Ankle and taken our holidays in Appleton Marsh.

    Alas, back to reality. I did go into Co-Operative Travel to enquire about flights to Itchy Ankle. The travel agent suggested I fly to Washington but then the sterling-dollar exchange rate makes this option prohibitively expensive. We did look at budget airlines and we established I could have flown one-way with Air Serbia for just £149; but this was to Veracruz and it seemed a long way to ask you to come and pick me up.

    Rest assured Blarneystone, I shall keep looking for an affordable fare and in the meantime I remain a devotee of your wistful musings.

    Health and happiness to my soulmate and intimate inmate.


    Doris Brazil


    Catch up with the full Doris story here




    Bright ideas for Doris Brazil

    February 13, 2010 at 7:25 am (Crone as Pen Pal, Culture with the Crone, itchy ankle) · Edit
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    Dear Ms Brazil,

    Thank you for your kind note last week. I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond, but, as you may have heard, things have been rather trying on this side of the Atlantic, what with the snow and all.

    While I haven’t been in touch, I have of course been keeping up with your blog, as has much of Itchy Ankle. Although they have never heard of Chris Choi, I know the town elders were rather relieved to learn of your passion for the plucky consumer journalist. Not everyone in Itchy Ankle is as broad-minded as they might be and your previous suggestion of a  civil union unsettled them. (You’ll forgive the unusually formal tone of this note–The Crone doesn’t want to bow to small town pressure, but she is anxious not to have her quiet spinsterly existence troubled either by salacious sightseers or pickets from the Ebenezer. And she’s Presbyterian, not  Lesbyterian–not that it matters, of course)

    Anyhow, that tricky matter addressed, let’s move on:

    I hope the following tips may be of value as you seek to put your house in order and brand your business. The Crone’s father (if only I could contrive a casual encounter in the Sloop Inn–you’d love him, even if he’s a little too old for your Iris Index) swears he has wrung an extra 20 years out of his own stylus by weighting it down with a penny secured by a blob of blutack. You should try it.

    And I think the sad demise of the lovely Alexander McQueen may provide an opening for a certain ladies’ outfitter. I read on Yahoo that there is no heir apparent to the head of his fashion house and of course you would be ideal. Your natural constituency–the careworn and jaded–is a population that is on the up-and-up (even Sarah Jessica Parker will be old one day) and I am sure that if you present statistics showing that the twirly tenner is the new pink pound you’ll be a shoo in. Failing that, you could always be the sole supplier in Appleton Marsh and perhaps also provide tartan thermos flasks, slippers and car rugs to allow people to cultivate the complete look. Good Luck!

     The late Alexander McQueen with SJP 


    1 Comment


    Jaffa Cakes and A Good Night’s Sleep–good times in the Brazil Abode.

    February 14, 2010 at 11:42 am (Crone as Pen Pal, Culture with the Crone, Tales of a Belfast girlhood) · Edit
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    For those of you who do not follow comments on the Crone’s postings as assiduously as you might, here is a faithful reproduction of the latest from Doris Brazil

    Odd that she should mention the Bay City Rollers, because the Crone was an ardent fan (although even her enthusiasm had waned by 1976) and her similarity to Fat Eric Faulkner (bottom right) has often been remarked upon.

    Dear Blarneycrone,

    You can assure the watchdogs of Itchy Ankle that they are barking up the wrong tree. Doris Brazil does not swing both ways. In fact it’s more than twenty years since she swung at all. Arousal is a word I now associate with Jaffa Cakes and a good night’s sleep. When I spoke of a civil ceremony I was speaking metaphorically of course, the metaphor was intended to demonstrate the depth of my delight at having found a like-minded soul with whom to correspond.

    As for Alexander McQueen, I understand your comments but I feel it’s time to step aside and give someone younger a chance. If I were to head Mr McQueen’s empire I would just be denying somebody else the opportunity. As for tartan, I got my fingers burnt by tartan back in the eighties when I jumped onto the Bay City Rollers’ bandwagon. Nobody told me that the BCR’s popularity had waned as early as 1976 when bassist Alan Longmuir left the band citing stress. I sold my last tartan waistcoat only last year.

    Several years ago, for Christmas, Flo bought me a tartan blanket, supposedly in the Brazil clan tartan. I said to her; “How on God’s earth can the Brazil’s have their own tartan?” But apparently we do and a less appealing combination of colours I struggle to imagine. Tangerine, teal and brown ochre! They must have looked buggers, wandering around the glens dressed like that. And how ironic, that their distant descendant should own a leading west country fashion house.

    Thank you for the stylus top tip; I shall give it a go.

    Ooh, there goes the doorbell. That’ll be Flo. We’ve got tickets for the Appleton Marsh Players. They’re doing a revival of Chekov’s Three Sisters and, as usual, I am going with the Flo. We love am-dram.








    The latest to Doris Brazil









     Surely the only time Chekhov and the Bay City Rollers have been mentioned in the same post? Summerlove Sensation was a big hit in the summer of 1974, around the same time that the Crone discovered she had the same problem hair as Eric (the chubby one who keeps trying to get into Les McKeown’s shot in the clip above)

    Hot pants for a cold climate

    February 17, 2010 at 9:33 pm (Crone as fashion icon, Culture with the Crone) · Edit
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    Dear Doris,

    Your revelation about the Brazil plaid prompts me to ask if your late husband was of Scottish descent and, if so, did he ever speak to you of curling? I am not much of a sportswoman myself but last night there was a particularly handsome Norwegian delivering the stone (see how quickly the Crone can learn to talk a good game?) and so I am thinking of grabbing my broom and heading for Oslo. I have my slip on gripper at the ready and, being originally from Northern Ireland, can easily access a big lump of igneous rock. I don’t know if you can fulfill online orders, but I’d be in the market for a decent pair of argyll curling pants if you’ve got any in stock…the Crone will pay in Krone.

    Slippery when Wet

    February 19, 2010 at 10:31 am (Crone as Pen Pal, Crone in the Nation’s capital) · Edit
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    Dear The Crone, 

    Joe and I kept conversation to a bare minimum during our short marriage of inconvenience. As far as I know he wasn’t Scottish, the topic of curling never came up and DBLW doesn’t stock curling apparel. Gosh, what a sour puss I must sound! 

    Thus far I haven’t been following the Winter Olympics but the Norwegian/ igneous combo you described is too tempting by half. I shall lure Flo around with the promise of a 200g block of Cadburys chocolate with biscuit inclusions, and we’ll watch it together. 

    Has it been snowing where you are? We have had a veritable dusting over here and the pavements are very slippy – it has been perfectly horrendous! I can’t wait for these Arctic conditions to retreat and for spring to begin. It’s my favourite time of year. 

    Dear Doris, 

    Not sour at all. I knew the curling pants would be a bit of a stretch (so to speak) and I had picked up that perhaps Joe Brazil was a bit of a  disappointment. So many of them are. 

    I know it’s hard to know how to address a Crone and would suggest the following: just as Barbaras are often called Babs, so Blabs can be the short form of Blarney–and it seems to suit. Blabs it is. 

    Interesting that Spring should be your favorite season. Are Easter blues, pinks and yellows your colors? Myself, I favor Fall, but that’s because I look good in green, brown and gold. It’s why I joined the Brownies–and can be susceptible to men in combat gear.  I find that a fading autumn light suits me rather better than anything bright and clear and I always try to be photographed in something approaching gloom. 

    Snow? Oh yes, we’ve had snow (in fact, there’s been a word or two about it here, should you care to scroll down the home page–I know Doris Brazil Ladies Wear must keep you very busy but, frankly, it’s a little hurtful that you have taken so little trouble to acquaint yourself with the Blarney environment and my emotional hinterland) 

    Sorry to hear the weather is bad in the West Country. Perhaps you could introduce the sign below to Appleton Marsh? We feel it provides very useful guidance, specially for dark passages on cold winter nights. 

    Best to you and to Flo, Blabs 

    Nearly as much fun as the “Kiss and Ride”–a potential title for the Crone’s definitive Irish-American novel 

    1 Comment

    1. Doris said,

      February 20, 2010 at 6:13 am · Edit 

      Dear Blabs, 

      What a relief to have decided upon a naming convention. I’ll be honest with you, it did trouble me, not quite knowing how to address you – there was a bewildering array of possibilities. “The Blarney Crone” sounded too formal; “Blabs” on the other hand, with its boiled-down etymology, is playful and more malleable. I approve. 

      My fondness for spring is rooted in my antipathy for winter. Spring ushers winter out, I can turn the setting down on my boiler, it’s light when I leave the shop, the pavements aren’t icy death traps and so on. As for fashion, I do favour blues, pinks and yellows, in fact I will be stocking a dress in just those colours in the DBLW Spring Collection – it’s very striking, diagonal stripes and a polo neck. 

      I read with interest your own Autumnal fashion leanings. Golds, greens and browns are timeless and I’m always pleased when I meet a person who has a clear sense of what works for them. You’re a bit like me, a khaki-craver, a beige-binger. As for combat gear, I can laugh about it now; in the seventies I did stock a camouflage design blouse as part of the Doris Brazil Vigilante Range but they didn’t sell at all well. 

      I recall that I have seen your snow photos before and your postings have all the hallmarks of familiarity so I can only conclude that my memory isn’t what it once was. I feel quite embarrassed now, remarking upon our meagre dusting as if we were in the grip of a new ice age! On the subject of the sign, I’m just not sure. Why point out the obvious? Most surfaces are slippery when wet. But this is worse, the sign is not actually saying the surface is slippery, just that if it’s wet it might be slippery. It’s a slippery slope (pun intended). Should we have a sign for everything that, in the right conditions, atmospheric or otherwise, could be dangerous? The other aspect of the sign I take issue with is the ambiguous artwork; the cartoon man looks as though he’s line dancing or at the very least punching the air in triumph. Appleton Marsh residents are easily confused I have to tell you. 

      I hope life in WDC and Itchy Ankle is returning to some semblance of normality after the snows. I have subscribed to your ‘feed’ so my finger is on your pulse and I can share breaking news with Flo as soon as it happens – time differences permitting. 

      Your good friend, 


    Following the Crone’s invitation, it sounds like it wouldn’t take too much to persuade Doris Brazil to don her nose clip and swim cap. The correspondence continues:

    Oh Blabs, Blabs, Blabs… fifty years ago I would have jumped at the chance of being an important member of your synchronized swimming team. In the days when Appleton Marsh had a lido, Flo and I were committed bathers and walking-swimming advertisements for DBLW. After the lido closed we went for a while to Tiverton municipal heated swimming pool but we soon tired of dodging around other people’s urinating kids and we decided to call it a day. That was in 1961.

    Just now, your vivid description of swimming in Vieques’ bioluminescent bay, brought it all back to me. I wish Flo and I could be there alongside you, one of us on either side. Obvious nautical analogies aside, Flo still swims and she’s the only person I know who can emerge from the water less wrinkles than when she first went in, not that that should unsettle you in any way. As for swimwear, DBLW does carry a limited stock of underwired big cup swimsuits in what I would describe as an asphalt grey colour with a ruched neckline, adjustable shoulder straps and a zebra print at the sides.

    Hola Doris and Greetings from Sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico,

    Sorry it has taken me a while to write, but between supervising the pool boy and conducting a comprehensive review of all the rum punch options available on Vieques, it has been a busy week.

    I’m glad you and Flo may be able to make up the numbers on the synchronized swimming team. Now all we have to do is work out how to practice our routine when we are all so far apart. Perhaps I could send an audio file with the choreography instructions and you and Flo could download it to your ipods and practice on the Axminster?  I don’t know if you have a webcam but if you can get the laptop low enough, you could always You Tube your rehearsals and I could send you directors notes by email? Isn’t it marvelous how technology enables not only transatlantic friendships, but also allows this sort of creative collaboration!

    We’ll have to leave it for a week or two though. The Puerto Rican diet is very heavy on starch–they have a thousand ways with yuca and more uses for plantain than you can possibly imagine.  I’d sink like a stone at the moment and really, the only parts of a synchronized swimmer anyone wants to see cresting the water are the nose and toes–I have some sit-ups to do before I’m team-ready. You’re lucky to keep so very trim…

    If you’re passing a Boots could you send me something from their intensive skin care line–I’m already beginning to flake in places, and am keen to avoid peeling. Perhaps Flo could pick something out as we share the same fair complexion. Really would appreciate it.

    Well Doris, somewhere there’s an arapes with my name on it (no need to cut back until next week) so I’ll say adios and look forward to catching up with you again soon.


    Dear Blabs,

    Flo and I have enjoyed your holiday posting and your photographs in particular. Puerto Rico looks so colourful and at times verges upon an assault on the senses. What a contrast to Appleton Marsh.

    I’m sure you must think I am royalty, assuming I have Axminster carpet! I’m a confirmed shag pile girl. As for ipods, I can’t operate anything smaller than a toaster these days; my Decca stereogram is perfect for me and has a lovely tone.

    I am luck to stay so trim. Every so often Flo will put the thought in my mind that I may have something more sinister but the fact is I have always had a slim figure. I attribute it to hard work, and an inability to keep my food down. Talking of food, what on earth is on that plate? The limes and the plate lead me to believe it’s foodstuff but I can’t be 100%

    Appleton Marsh doesn’t have a Boots but tomorrow is half-day closing for DBLW and I shall be heading into Exeter – I want to exchange an icing nozzle – and I can nip into Boots. Flo won’t be with me so you’ll have to trust to my judgement. To reassure you though, after all these years, I have no trouble visualising her palid features.

    Enjoy what remains of your holiday.

    Best wishes,


    Dear Doris,
    Thanks for sending the super-strength moisturizer, which arrived today. The postmaster in Cheriton Marsh must run a very tight ship!
    Who knew that figwort, nettles,  Red Clover and your beloved apple cider vinegar were so essential to good dermatological health?  Anyhow, it’s great to have a quart of the stuff and rest assured that I will be ladling on the beta-hydroxy acids just as suggested on the label.
    As a single woman yourself, I know you will share my frustration with the difficulties of creaming particularly itchy spots. I sunburned my back while snorkeling (not your bag, I know) and really can’t apply unguents just as I would like.
    I’m thinking of greasing a bin bag and rolling around on it–or using it like male models do in aftershave ads–you know that manly towelling thing they do, sort of stropping their spine with the cotton terry at full stretch?
    Anyhow, enough of my problems with scaling and flaking–which reminds me, how did Flo get on at the charity abseil? Not an easy thing to do in slingbacks, but I know she’s tireless in her support of community projects.
    It’s to be a wonderful weekend in Itchy Ankle–high 50s and high time to get going on the spring pots. I’ll send you some photos when I’m done and if you want to take part in a bulb or seed swop I’ll pop something in a Jiffy–the Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) need never know…


    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.

    Business Development for Doris Brazil

    March 15, 2010 at 4:33 am (Crone as Pen Pal, Culture with the Crone, The Traveling Crone) · Edit
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    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.



    Dear Doris,

    Hope you had a good Mother’s Day with Kirsty and Flo. My sister had a Citreon Picasso, but no squint, so there the similarity ends.

    You won’t believe this, but I’m gallivanting again! It’s Scottsdale, Arizona this week, a very far cry from both Itchy Ankle and Appleton Marsh what with the giant cacti, the red rocks and the blazing sun.

    I thought of you this morning at my spa appointment. Have you ever thought of expanding into pedicures at Doris Brazil Ladies Wear? (I know you are not anxious to stretch yourself any thinner, but, let’s face it, the pension doesn’t go as far as it once did and it has to make sense to fill the coffers while you can. ) Just think of it–Flo brandishing a pumice, a basin or two of hot water, a judicious drop of Dettol, a couple of bargain handtowels and you’d be well away. You could ask people to bring their own polish, at least to begin with. And it would be a way of charging people who only come in to sit down and get out of the rain…

    Not sure if you have any flip flops that may have been slow movers, but of course there’s a great up-selling opportunity there too–a chance to clear a little space in the stock room. You could have a marketing campaign ” Flash those Feet on our High Street” or some such.

    Anyhow, think about it. I can’t remember the name of the hairdressers (thanks for the correction on the Rialto BTW) but it seems to me that Appleton Marsh could do with a service beyond Curl Up and Dye or Short and Curly or whatever it is she calls herself.

    The spa here is very new age. Staff in Indian tunics, scented candles and a preponderance of scatter cushions. At the front desk, they invited me to select a small colorful pebble and lob it in a fountain: “Wish your intention for the day” they said. I declined. Then they walked me past a giant lump of quartz, lit from below by an electric bulb. “Place both hands on it and let it release your stress and toxins. Make your intention for the day” they said. My hands stayed firmly on my handbag. They also offered something called lip-printing. I quote directly from the brochure:

    “learn what your lip prints are telling you about your moods, personality and energetic levels. Lip prints hold insight and inspiration, showing you where your energy is being used, wasted and supplied. Let your lip prints guide you toward fulfilling your highest potential”

    Seems they couldn’t pick up the message from my lips, which were alternately pursed and curled. What a load of old nonsense.

    Anyhow, I’d best get on. Have a good week and stay in touch,


    Doris takes a dim view

    March 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm (Crone as Pen Pal, yard sale) · Edit
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    Doris’s latest letter below refers to information the Crone shared about a particularly new age spa she visited in Scottsdale last week.  You can read the Crone’s letter here, catch up on the whole Doris Brazil correspondence here and learn more about Doris from her own blog, here.

    Dear Blabs,

    Gracious me what a load of tosh. Here in Appleton Marsh old age is the new new age and there’s no lip print that’s calibrated finely enough to detect my energy levels. Do people really fall for that stuff? If ever show any new age inclinations I have my own personal earth rod called Flo; she soon grounds me. I remember when I bought some ethically sourced tea for the staff room; I’ve never lived that one down. As for scatter cushions, the notion of not placing a cushion into some sort of a geometric relationship with its immediate surroundings confounds me.

    Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow. That’s the name of the hairdressers on Appleton Marsh High Street. It’s a truism. Flo says the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is a fortnight. It’s only a rule of thumb and, in the case of Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow it’s simply not true. Last year I had my hair coloured there. I asked for Golden Wave, which I would describe as a champagne tint, but Shula thought I’d said Raven and when I emerged, God help me, I looked like Ronald Reagan in drag. Appleton Marsh’s own Prince of Darkness. Residents of Appleton Marsh are not litigious by nature but Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow sails close to the judicial wind.

    I can’t quite believe what a gadabout you are Blabs. Galavanting is indeed the perfect verb to describe your comings and (mostly) goings. I do enjoy following your exploits and living life vicariously. And keep the business recommendations coming. I’m afraid though pedicures are a non-starter. There’s an inch of dead skin on the soles of Flo’s feet and her toenails are marble-like yellow talons. She painted them once; it was like painting bananas, she used two whole bottles of varnish to finish the job. And, somewhat surprisingly, we have never stocked flips flops even though the trade margin on these is very attractive. It’s the minimum order quantity and subsequent distortion to working capital that troubles me.

    I’m pleased it’s not just me that purses and curls my lips alternately. We have so much in common you and I.

    Much love,


    Dear Doris,

    I knew you were a fashion maven with a flair for self-marketing, but, until I read your thoughts on beachwear ROI above I’d hadn’t realised quite what an astute business woman you are–although I suppose that it is no accident Doris Brazil Ladies Wear has lasted so long when all around you in Appleton Marsh shops are being shuttered.  Tragically, I am to  entrepreneurialism what Mrs Thatcher was to emotional intelligence–I just don’t get it.  I am one of life’s shoppers not shop-keepers. It’s a conversation I am often forced to have with the Itchy Ankle bank manager after a particularly egregious spell of yard sale binge-buying.

    I’m back in Itchy Ankle and working hard to adjust to East Coast time and having to pick up my own clothes, make my own bed, and rinse my own shower after use. Housework is another thing I’m not cut out for. I do envy you your Bissell. I fell for the grey-haired good looks of James Dyson and invested in one of his space-age contraptions. A pivoting ball is all very well but it does feel like a lot of work to lug the thing in and out of the futility room (the room which annexes the kitchen, so called because the washing, drying and cleaning have to be done over and over–a sort of US super-sized glory hole). A Bissell is so lightweight and compact.

    The central heating seems to have taken a turn for the worse while I’ve been away. Lots of whirring and sputtering, but no heat as such. I’ll have to get a man in.

    Beyond that, very little seems to have changed in Itchy Ankle while I was in the wild west, so I’ll close now and hope for something more exciting to report next week.

    Best to Flo,


    PS: Good luck with your tabard promotion. No run on them for St Patrick’s Day then???


    House-hunting for a friend. Can Doris help?Posted on March 27, 2010 by blarneycrone

    Not everything in Itchy Ankle has weathered the hard winter 

    Dear Doris,

    I am hoping you may be able to share some insights from the Appleton Marsh real estate market with a friend of mine recently retired from an executive position in London. She worked for the BBC and all that “nation speaking peace onto nation” and educating, informing and entertaining has taken it out of her. Reithian values are all very well, but for non-Presbyterians, they can be taxing. Anyhow, the long and the short of it is that she aspires to something a little quieter and I feel Appleton Marsh would be ideal.

    Might you perhaps recommend an estate agent who could help her find something where vicars cycle by, where people are always popping round with scrumpy or clotted cream, and where the beer in the pub is reliably warm? I think she’d really appreciate it.

    I would suggest she buys a summer home in Itchy Ankle but, as you can see, the snow has taken its toll on many of our finest properties and besides, she’s fonder of clotted cream and a nice cup of tea than she is of crabs and cold Miller Lite, the staple refreshment in these parts.

    I think you’d like her. She loves shopping and has a keen eye both for a bargain and high fashion. Perhaps she could be the first to sign up for a DBLW credit card? She’s also a talented writer so a fashion review in the Cheriton Bishop Courier might not be out of the question.

    Talk of fashion brings me to the seasonal subject of Easter Bonnets and a rather excellent photo album another friend from the UK introduced me to this morning on a Facebook fan page for Rocks, Frocks and Cocktails  I assume you have cornered the millinery market in Appleton Marsh and so, at this time of year, it really has to make sense to have both an online and a shop window display showing off your stock.  Select those with wide enough brims and Flo could be your  internet model—no need to see her face.

    I bought a rather jaunty chequered fedora while in Puerto Rico but it seems absurdly out of place back here in Itchy Ankle. Sadly, my days in the sunshine are but a fast receding memory. Last night the mercury plummeted below freezing and, as the central heating was still on the blink, I needed a woolly night cap rather more than a sunhat. A burly man came to fix things this morning. Always a pleasure. It was a burned out fan apparently. Well at least something in Itchy Ankle has been living life at full tilt…

     Anyhow, it’s all better now and for less than $300–about 200 of your British pounds.

    Stay warm, write soon and have a Happy Easter, Blabs


    Doris says:

    1. Dear Blabs,


      I am fit to burst with excitement at the prospect of your friend buying a retirement home in Appleton Marsh. And how exciting to have a celebrity from the Beeb in our midst. We do love our BBC Radio Devon down here and I am especially fond of Tony Beard aka “the Wag from Widecombe” who presents Dartmoor Diary on Saturday lunchtime.


      Estate agents call the area between Tedburn St Mary, Morehampstead and Doddiscombsleigh, “The Golden Triangle” on account of their desirability and short supply. Appleton Marsh is actually outside the Golden Triangle, meaning property in the town is quite affordable yet it is still reasonably desirable and if there were such a thing as a Golden Tetrahedron, we would surely be in it.


      I am by nature a glass three quarters full person and I am sometimes accused of seeing Appleton Marsh through rose tinted spectacles but there is much to commend our little corner of Devon. Warm beer, clotted cream and fudge is only the start of it. We have an active Women’s Institute, a Choral Society (or Choral Soc as we call it), a theatre group (the Appleton Marsh Players) in need of new members and a crown green bowling club. A small circle of friends, myself and Flo included, enjoy infrequent whist drives and Scrabble nights and then there’s the Rialto, the town’s cinema. By and large ours is an aging population; as your friend has only retired it will be nice to have an injection of youth. She should think ahead though, we do have an excellent health centre here in the town and there are generous disabled parking facilities on the High Street.


      You kindly gave a namecheck to DBLW. So many derive comfort from the thought that they don’t have to travel into Exeter to find that special outfit. Tell your friend that DBLW doesn’t have a credit card but we have just introduced a 3% discount and loyalty card. And if she wants to put her writing talents to good use I do need help re-drafting my DBLW Internship advertisement. We tend not to sell hats, they are such a personal thing and, in my experience, people love to try them on but rarely buy.


      Anyhow, back to your friend and the question of a property. I suggest she spends a few weekends in Devon getting a feel for the area before she begins house-hunting in earnest. And when she’s ready, there are several good estate agents I can recommend but, in all honesty, I would begin with the obituaries in the West Country Times; get in before they come to the market is my advice.


      I am so pleased that your central heating is fixed. It has been warmer here of late and, as I type, I am down to one bar on the fire.


      Have a lovely Easter and I shall think you when I’m frenziedly removing all of that unnecessary packaging around my Easter eggs to get at the chocolate.


      With kind thoughts,



       Ok, I admit it. I got bored with cutting and pasting after this. If you are interested to read more of the Blarney crone/Doris Brazil correspondence, go to my home page and click on Crone as Pen Pal under Hot Topics. That will bring up most of the posts, although you may have to click on comments in some cases to get the full richness of the exchange.


    3 Responses to The Incomplete Doris Brazil Correspondence

    1. Pingback: Doris takes a dim view « Blarneycrone's Weblog

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