Monthly Archives: May 2016


I’m not particularly sure why I keep the umbrella in my bag still. It’s not going to rain and there’s always a cab but I feel I don’t want to be surprised by the consequences of a sudden rainfall. When I was a girl I would love to walk out of an afternoon, get the resolute drenching I deserved and then trudge home and be fussed over. I suppose my worry is that now I would be judged rather than fussed over. Actually am I more concerned with being fussed over? Not very comfortable with that.

The umbrella is a midnight blue affair with a series of parading scotty dogs over the arc of the thing. Not terribly sure where this scotty dog thing started. I remember being given a broach when I was young by Aunt Clara. Not sure I had much of a choice about wearing the dratted thing after that. The rule seemed to be that on each subsequent visit of any significant dignitary one should be wearing or holding as much of the previously proffered clobber as one could reasonably manage and remain standing.

I think it was mainly that the broach was easy to pop on top of anything and therefore stood me in good staid incase of unexpected Aunt based activity. This, I think, broadcast to everyone that I had a particular affinity for the blasted scotty dogs when, in fact, I was trying to show an affinity for father’s sister.

So why now this umbrella? I have mainly put away such childish pooches but I saw this new invention, a handbag sized brolly, with dogs upon it and it seemed designed for an echo of me. But shoot me if I ever buy an actual dog.


Stephie journal – Day 7

I allowed Roger to have telephoned three times before I permitted the call to be put through to me. Yes I did think things were different than before. Yes I did think Alison was worried. And I agreed that she did, as Roger suggested, need a shoulder to cry on. I listened to quite a detailed description of said shoulder. I’m not sure that chiselled features are that comfortable to rest upon if I’m honest – but perhaps that’s just me.

Roger seemed to have fully moved from a funeral march to Yankee-doodle-dandy in terms of changing his tune. Now he was keen to prove that he could be an adequate friend for Alison in this terribly manufactured time of need.

This happily left me in the position of having set the ships off into the ocean without having to fully consider the ruddy great icebergs that said ships were heading pell-mell towards.

As I considered it I wasn’t sure I had totally agreed to it conceptually. I really worried that these two wouldn’t be terribly suited. The only countervailing thought was that Anthony and Alison were the worst possible sickly combination of coupling. Boring to all outside their own bubble. And then the fear struck me, what had I done? What if I was valuing the deterioration of my relationship with my friend above her happiness. That couldn’t be true – she was missable with him – or was she?

What had most worried me about yesterday was Roger’s sense not to mess with bliss. Why was a plank like Roger able to take avoiding action when I had no common sense? Please don’t answer that.


Stephie Journal – Day 6

Back to getting on with things today at work. One of those rare normal days. At the beginning of the day there was something that pro-ported to be a plan and it was followed almost to the end.

We had meetings with decisions, meetings that needed decisions and meetings that sounded like they were going nowhere but where we decided at the last minute to decide that some decisions might not be as bad an idea as we might have done when we all walked in.

Decided, having had a bit of sleep, to go fully for planned insertion of spanners into relevant nuptial works. I telephoned Roger and arranged to meet him for luncheon. I think, at first, he thought we were meeting for my own benefit. He told an absolute stonker of a story involving the archdeacon, a lady of ill repute and small yapping dog that wouldn’t shut up. When I revealed that I wasn’t interested I could see that he was upset that he had used his “A” material on someone who didn’t matter and might be called upon to listen and laugh at the story again.

“Isn’t Alison getting married,” he cut rough with my idea of teasing the issue out.
“Not necessarily,” I said.
“Yes necessarily,” he said, “imagine I was in the other posish? Couldn’t stand it.”
“And that’s going to hold you back?” I asked.
“Of course, not my usual MO Stephie, not keen on this sort of thing as a rule.”
“But you know Anthony, he’s s drip of the first order.”
“No argument from me, but he has a proposal from a decent lady, actually from a stonkingly brilliant lady, and that’s a bit of fair play as far as I can tell.”

The good news was this confirmed my view in Roger’s essential decency, this was clearly wonderful. But in practical terms in relation to booting Anthony out of the picture it didn’t seem terribly positive.

Decided to apologise to Roger for wasting his time and offer him a rematch at dinner. “The topic of Anthony and Alison will not cross my lips, a dinner just about the world of Roger – what do you think?” He seemed to be quite amiable to this idea.

I wonder how truly shocked he was when only a few hours later I “had to” cancel because I had to urgently meet with Anthony who was “questioning everything”.

I, of course, had no such dinner. I went home, Claude pulled together something lamb based which was more than acceptable and I went to bed knowing that I had achieved a good day.


Stephie Journal – Day 5

Almost the first thing I saw when I woke up was the tulips. The weather has improved again and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the light dappled on the tulips I might allow that it played a bit.

All of this made me think of Spring springing and new beginnings getting their start in life. As I thought this I started to feel guilty about Alison. She wasn’t dull. Life, and Anthony, had made her so. Wasn’t it my job, as her pro-ported friend to shake her from the shackles of drudgery? Of course it was. How to do it though?

I got up and considered the situation while dealing with my face. A grey eyebrow hair and a spot on the nose were pretty clear blocks to being able to focus objectively on my friend’s future. While the eyebrow hair needed dispatching I was heartened to discover that the nose spot was actually a stain from peony pollen, so I didn’t have to get so Lady Macbeth about the whole thing.

Clearly Alison needed shaking out of her decision to marry. One could always persuade some far more eligible alternative to start sidling in her general vicinity. Finding one of those wouldn’t be tricky, but finding one who would actually go through with the whole popping of said question was a little trickier. I wasn’t sure how Alison would feel about trading the bird in her hand for a flighty alternative, even if her bird was a certified dodo.

There was always Roger. He was pretty good at making sure people had a good time, and I couldn’t help but feel that Alison needed a bit of that. Could he be pinned down though? Many had tried, especially Aunt Clara, but even the hollow threat of withdrawal of allowance hadn’t caused the desired outcome. Perhaps because it was patently hollow, perhaps because he couldn’t be moved out of bachelor life. It hadn’t been tested. I rather agreed with Clara, unusually, that once he tried monogamy he might prefer it.

Of course there was always Simon-from-the-office but… No. That would work a bit too well for my liking. I’m not willing to keep going to sea without my life-raft. Let’s punt on how long that can work without my addressing it. I’m making progress for Alison today, don’t let’s start bringing me into it.


Stephie Journal – Day 4

It had been such a week I was starting to feel I might become like the Gosports and fade fast. I might be tired but duty, seems necessary when remembered, but is easily forgotten when ignored.

There were things that needed to be done. A visit with Aunt Clara first thing seemed advised. She’s a good egg is Clara and she tends to keep the other aunts in line. She seemed a little distracted on arrival but she explained it was because her dog, Badger, had taken ill and she’d just received a letter about it. Obviously I didn’t want anything upsetting to happen to the blighter but if I am correct in my identification of animalis woofious then I remember this particular pooch being a trifle more romantically affectionate of my left leg than I prefer in man’s best friend, so I might not have been as considerate as I might have been. Luckily Clara was so cut up about it she didn’t notice and was keen to send me packing so she could head off.

This meant I got a spare ten minutes to myself before Alison arrived for luncheon. I filled it by merely staring completely into space. It was the first ten minutes apart from sleep I’d had alone all week. I was quite shocked when Alison arrived to find myself still in the restaurant. We chatted about her upcoming nuptials and all of the arrangements. She’s become more boring since she paired off with Anthony and that’s saying something.

We went shopping together all afternoon and then for dinner we made a three with the one and only Anthony at Sparges. Anthony is a prize drip. Nowadays Alison is as dull as an unpolished doorknob but Anthony makes her look good, not by applying a bit of brasso and giving her a rub, but rather by sitting there an even duller doorknob in the hope she looks good in comparison.

I hated the whole sorry lot of it. Time to go home. On the opening of the front door I could smell something that required immediate action. Peonies might be the bees knees but I still had to chuck them. I’m not sure there really is such a thing as a stench of death among humans, but I’m not really the person to ask. I can tell you that when it comes to peonies that once they turn against you the all pervading smell will tend to remind you that the end is neigh. So I put them in the bin, and cut some tulips to put in their place.


Stephie Journal – Day 3

After the usual warp and weft of the day I had Audrey and Neville Gosport to supper. I don’t know where these two old relics had been dragged up from but Simon-in-the-office insisted on having them come barging into my abode and helping themselves to the good stuff. The most ridiculous part, to my mind, is that this was all done in the name of getting old Gosport to place some advertising in the magazine. It made me feel rather glum as I chased the peas round the plate with my fork to think of Claude’s cold cuts as being offered up as advertising for the the advertising.

All of a sudden during a bit of a lull in the proceedings Audrey actually nodded off. “Ho Ho” I thought. This should set old Gosport off, he won’t like this. I waited for the action, poised with a slab of ham inches from the mandibles in case I needed to deploy some emergency verbiage. Would you believe it but Gosport hadn’t noticed? He just chuntered on as though the whole world must be as fascinated with his collection of various diameter screwdrivers as he was. After a few more minutes he suddenly said “oh Audrey’s nodded off”.

I started to say something about it when he fell fast asleep himself. That, I must say, brightened my evening quite considerably. I called for more claret and tiptoed through the desert. After a further half an hour I woke them, assured them they’d had a lovely evening and called them a cab.

Now bed.


Stephie Journal – Day 2

I went to a wonderful party last night with work colleagues. One of them is leaving, I’m sad about that but I’m not ready to write about it yet. One chap there kept going on about resilience, I suppose people have since the war, but I wish it wasn’t so. We all need to bend a bit more than we did back then, not everyone is right all of the time, can’t be, stands to reason. Despite absolute patent logic he kept banging on about resilience this, resilience that. I told him that we must have a lot of resilience he didn’t know about.
“How so,” he asked?
“To put up with you,” I answered.
One advantage of being the boss is that they do have to listen to you. The boys ragged on him a bit, which I’m sure was as much about being cut down to size by a woman, as that it was a good line. He’ll be plotting against me again before too long.

Probably drank too much, but had a good time. I got home and decided not to make the carrot cake as planned, might have set the house on fire. I was so tired. Work was a bit of a wash out today, lots to do for the new edition and everyone was a bit flat after the party. Hey-ho, nobody likes it if they can’t have fun sometimes.


Stephie Journal – Day 1

The weather has turned again and today was a rather beautiful misty morning. I realised I’d left my umbrella at the office, but when I looked out the window to see piles of grey nothingness rather than sheets of rain I was rather relieved. Must be the first blighter ever to be happy about mist.

Now I don’t want you running away with the idea that I’m all cock-a-hoop about mist and can see no possible downside – in fact not being able to see literal downsides is indeed one of the figurative downsides of mist. But the particular mist induced downside I was facing this morning was avoiding the snails. The way I was brought up was to consider the best kind of snail a dead snail, my mother hated the way they went after her lettuce, and father thought them nothing more than jumped up slugs, “what’s so special about carrying around your own home on your back? How does that make them all smug and superior to slugs, eh?” He would ask this before continuing, “I would have thought having to carry around your own house would make you a lower order crustacean, what do you think about that?”

But despite my training, London has softened my country ways so I don’t wan’t to squish them, and I certainly don’t want to ruin my shoes.

When I arrived at the office there was some excitement in the lift. A couple got in, which is odd enough to be getting along with. What kind of couple gets into an office lift? They were having a rare old time and completely ignoring me, then suddenly the scene turned slightly ugly. He asked her, “what can I smell on your breath?”
“Hot chocolate,” she replied.
“I smell fag smoke”.
“Nah it’s just hot chocolate, honest”.

The lift rattled to a halt at the floor before mine, they made to get out, but just as they exited the lift she pinched him on the bum. I couldn’t believe myself and neither could he as he jumped about a mile.

I didn’t know what to think afterwards. I don’t want somebody telling me what to do. I was pleased that she got her way, even if that wasn’t the way I would do it, he’d have to deal with me smoking if I wanted to. But was I jealous somehow of this hot chocolate guzzling, bottom pinching flake? She had something I wanted, but I didn’t know what.



Ever since I was eleven I have had a deep suspicion of people who hum. I can remember my birthday that year as though it weren’t 12 years ago but were rather yesterday, or indeed the day before. I was walking downstairs, hair a little less than its usual shevelled state and suddenly I heard a most disappointing sound. It was as though someone was forcing a kazoo through a cat. Hold the marching band, stop the balloon release, birthday is immediately and totally arrested pending further revelry. It was then, or around then, that my cousin Archie came wheeling around the corner. This isn’t a figure of speech, what I was faced with was a roller-skate propelled cousin where I might usually have expected to find a small bust of Churchill or similar.

Said cousin was gesticulating wildly and clearly wasn’t just having difficulty with the skates. He was also having difficulty with the things he was running into and frankly his whole attitude to life, he was also having quite considerable trouble carrying a decent rendition of La Marseillaise.

It was that moment that started and finished the whole formative chapter of my life in relation to humming. The noise was so godawful, so inconsiderate that I swore I would punch anyone on the nose who did it in my presence ever again. And I’ll be honest I spent a fair few years socking faces left and right until the whole thing started to seem about as inconsiderate as the humming if not, perhaps, maybe a little bit worse. So, and this time it is figuratively, please do try and keep up, I had to knock the whole thing on the head.

Nowadays, generally, I merely seethe. I am quite a seether, as a rule, I am generally pretty good at it, and people tend to be quite aware that something has gone wrong. Not sure that I’m absolutely positive that the switch to seething from bopping on the nose was entirely a step forward for the old psyche, but it certainly stops one getting arrested which is generally frowned upon these days.

People tend to go off one if one is quietly seething, but as one can’t help seething one has started to become a bit superstitious about hummers. It’s as though they herald periods of upcoming separation and rejection from human society. Don’t get me wrong, periods of separation and rejection of society are good in themselves, nothing wrong there, but only, in my opinion, when self inflicted. Not when they are foisted upon us by deranged folk who think their lips a harmonica.


Stephie Lettings

Hello everyone. For my birthday this year Katherine surprised me with an idea for a birthday present. She decided to send me on a six week method creative writing class at the wonderful bookshop Bookseller Crow. The idea was that not only would I hopefully enjoy the present but that I would be forced into making time and space for writing – something that’s difficult on occasion. You may well be thinking, “yes I’m on board with the idea of a six week course, even possibly – at a push – a creative writing class, but there seems to be the inclusion of the word ‘method’ up above there and you better explain that pretty pronto buster’. The idea is to create and on occasion “be” the character you are writing about. I have decided, in my usual style, to throw myself into this and so Stephie is now on Twitter. Indeed Stephie will be taking over the blog, and will be writing on a daily basis for the next seven weeks (the course is six weeks, but we write in the weekly class too, and so I will publish those bits, when they focus on Stephie too). Today’s piece is from the first class. I pass you over to Stephie. See you in seven weeks.

– Alex.

My name is Stephanie Penelope Barnaby Lettings but most people call me Stephie, except old Stebbings, she thinks Stebbings is a great deal too close to Stephie and Lettings and so she calls me Penny. Actually she pretty exclusively calls me ‘Penny, you call her Stephie, you know Stephie Lettings, yes that one’ but then that’s old Stebbings for you. Never really was quite sure where the Stephanie bit came from if I’m honest, it might have been somebody pater had a bit of an eye for before mother, but I never asked him before he shipped out. Barnaby was the family dog’s name before I came along and father was so upset when Barnaby died that he insisted he’d name his first-born after the dog, but when I popped out a girl clearly the name had to move down the pecking order pretty smartish. If mother got a look in in all this it was probably about the whole Penny bit, never quite understood why she’d name me after her most hated aunt, but that seems to be roughly the posish. Obviously the old surname, ‘Lettings’ is a bit of a let down around the more respectable tables for luncheon, but I am assured that it is French, or some such, rather than from the estate agent trade or something ghastly like that.

– Stephie.