Marigold Says...

Random thoughts on travelling and life in general.

Lockdown Layabouts. Proof that Isolation Addles the Brain.

I am not a Number. I am a free man.

The expression ‘I am not a number’ was a regular feature of The Prisoner, a television series about an unnamed intelligence agent abducted and imprisoned in a mysterious coastal village, actually Portmeirion in Wales. I had to look up the dates, but filming took place from 1966 to 1968 with Patrick McGoohan playing the imprisoned ‘number 6.’

We’ve been to Portmeirion several times and it’s hard to imagine a more interesting place to be imprisoned in. Number 6 didn’t know when he was on to a good thing.

We don’t get to whiz around a beautiful deserted village in a Mini Moke and keeping an award winning travel blog afloat when we’re not travelling isn’t easy, but here’s some random musings from Cell Block B.

Don’t expect much wisdom and, this week in particular, you should drastically scale back on any foolish hopes that this long running travel blog will contain anything to do with, er, travel.

If it’s reports from afar you’re craving, there are a couple of hundred or so travel themed posts within the blog, but it’s just not possible to say when, or indeed if, our nomadic lifestyle will restart.

Marigold goes first, obviously, so I’ll hand over to her and hope there’s enough space left for me a bit later on.

Marigold Says…

Was flicking round the other day on the tv, and came upon what I thought was the Bollywood version of The Rocky Horror Show. It was The Real Marigold Hotel.

Several questions - why is Douglas Ballantine who is a multi millionaire putting himself through all this and leaving a very young wife at home? What was the matter with Britt Ekland’s top lip? And her bottom lip? Had she gone over to India for lip treatment and just latched on, not with her teeth you understand.

As I don’t watch East Enders I presumed the Nasty Nick character was not the fat old geezer in glasses. G tells me that was Henry Blofeld who I have heard about second hand when G is listening to the cricket. Usually G will be shouting, ‘shut up about buses and pigeons, Henry, and just tell me the score.’

Can you imagine if Covid 19 had happened when they were there and being stuck with them for months? Douglas whatsit could have gone to the very best hotel and am sure he probably did anyway.

G just told me their ages. Britt Ekland is 77, Zandra Rhodes is 79 and Henry Blofeld is 80. He didn’t bother looking up the East Enders bloke because we don’t care about him. Duncan Bannatyne is ‘only’ 71 and I presume he’s gone there for a bit of a rest as he has a wife in her thirties.

We were at an airport aeons ago, and I must say I was stunned as this vision of colour wafted through. It was Zandra, who is tiny. She used to live in the house next door to us in London long ago. Westbourne Grove actually, which sounds a bit more posh than Paddington.

Not that we were friends. She owned the house next door and we were in one of the dozen or so flats in ‘our’ house. That flat in Westbourne Grove was a big step up from our previous bed sitter as it had a curtain across the middle of the room so it be called a two roomed apartment. Two walls were purple and the other two were bright orange, colours we vowed never to put together when we got walls of our own to decorate.

At the airport she looked fab and even her luggage was orange.

We were at one of the London airports, again a long time ago, and a woman asked if she could sit opposite and was carrying a pot of tea. We had got a coffee each and a packet of rich tea biscuits as a treat. There was nowhere else for her to sit, so of course we said “yes”.

It was Raine Spencer. She was a bit chatty and had been there all day as they were installing a Harrods Shop in the airport concourse and she was overseeing it. Think she worked for Harrods for a bit, probably when Al Fayed was there.

I offered her a biscuit. She had two. She rather spoiled our biscuit dunking by giving us dirty looks of disapproval Anyway she seemed very nice in a hoity-toity sort of way. I would have loved it if her mother had been with her, but unfortunately she was dead.

Unfortunately for me, but even more so for her I suppose.

People were looking and commenting as she was newsworthy back then. I kept smiling, thinking they were looking at ME.

She got up to go as she was being collected, fiddled in her pocket and I thought she was leaving us a tip. She was looking for her hanky. The only thing she left was a huge smudge of plum lipstick on her cup. She had got very nice hands. I didn’t know if I should curtsy and G click his heels.

G just said who was that overdressed woman pulling faces at us? He’s never been up to speed on public figures or the nobility. That was the nearest I ever got to a royal connection.

Me: ‘Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?’

Alexa: ‘Why should you care, you’re not going anywhere.’

I hate Alexa. She annoys me so much. Ignores me, yet whatever G says to her she dashes to obey. G says it must be because I am using what he calls my ‘telephone voice’ and it’s obviously not being interpreted as the English language.

I could get very cross with Alexa if she doesn’t buck her ideas up. I suspect she doesn’t like my taste in music. It’s hard, being judged by a machine.

G and I were saying how much money we were saving. No shopping expedition treats like coffee, lunch, cinema, charity shops, book shops with coffee shops attached, petrol, finding lovely b and b’s to book and stay in. We must be quids in.

Lipstick is another one, I now only apply it when going to the bin. We were also wondering how long it will take to not say to people “stop there and leave it on the step”. Will we still be thinking, you’re too close, go away? Mind you I did think that with some people before.

A friend e-mailed yesterday. You would have to know her husband to believe this. He thought he had got piles, but as he is a hypochondriac, maybe not. Anyway, he had a video consultation with their doctor. Asked him a few questions, the final one being are your stools hard. He answered, “no because they have got cushions on”.

I can believe it all. He had been very frightened in case he had to show his bottom on the big screen. It certainly puts me off the idea of video health screening.

My doctor will be relieved by that.

This is what I shall wear if we ever go out.

More Nonsense.

G Says…

We’re still here under strict lockdown conditions, unlike those with a death wish still hankering after treats such as a trip to the tip. It said on the television regional news - that’s the one where the presenters appear far better suited to working in radio broadcasting than television, adopt experimental hairstyles and bizarre mode of dress and usually have indecipherable regional accents – there are two hour queues at our recently reopened local ‘tip’ – it’s not all fun and games out there then.

A recent Government pronouncement invited us all to take part in unlimited exercise. Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill had very clear views on the subject of exercise.

‘Never stand up when you can sit down and never sit down when you can lie down.’

It didn’t take long for that advice to permeate down to the majority of British people and yet now we’re told we need to exercise more. Exercise can even be ‘unlimited.’


It’s a suggestion, not an enforceable edict, but even so I can think of many people I know who will have to look up the meaning of the word ‘exercise’ in a dictionary.

Not Marigold or I, obviously, as we’re both physically unchanged by lockdown.

My somewhat unfit for purpose heart requires exercise. It’s a muscle after all and quite an important one. The regular bumf I get from Cardiac Bloke* at Hospital - *not sure that’s his proper title – always refers to my ‘Myocardial Ischemia’ which certainly sounds impressive, but it basically means an inefficient pump - the heart version of ‘leaves on the line’ - hence its only working at about 33% of capacity.

A part time heart in layman’s terms, so I put it to work. I have my (pathetic) 25 step walking routine, access to a (even more pathetic and useless) exercise bike dominating our ‘spare’ room and a pair of hand weights (roughly equivalent to lifting a bag of spuds) which take up part of my day.

As every aspect of my life is governed now by heart rate I have to constantly check my pulse at every stage on a very clever app on my phone.

I vaguely remember being considered rather fit once. It was a while ago now, but as Lee Trevino once said about his golf prowess, ‘The older I get, the better I used to be.’

I read about top sportsmen worrying about their fitness levels since Covid–19 took effect and fretting about resuming competition in less than perfect shape. ‘I’d be ready,’ I mutter to myself, self delusion being just one of the effects of increasing age.

Now ‘free time’ has become the norm I find I can get an immense sense of accomplishment from doing nothing for a whole hour. Doing as little as possible is okay, at a pinch, but it’s not right up there in top spot.

In this period of tremendous upheaval it’s obvious changes will have to be made to what was once regarded as ‘normal life.’ Gloves, masks, social distancing and so much more. Life as we used to know it will soon be a forgotten memory.

Marigold said this to me the other day, but I insisted we are made of the right stuff and will still remember the olden times. ‘I even remember a time when pesto and squashed avocado weren’t classed as essential to a balanced diet,’ I said. She just looked flummoxed. Maybe I’m just imagining life existed in the pre pesto era.

Earlier today there was an ice cream van in the road, playing March of the Mods very loudly. No idea if there were any customers but there were three deafening bursts of his ‘music’ so he’s pretty eager to sell his wares.

Does hearing March of the Mods - hardly cutting edge music – convey the idea of ‘Ooh, ice cream’ to Millennials? I doubt it.

I wonder if there’s a shortage of ice cream van jingles. Are they the ‘third wave’ of shortages following on from toilet rolls and then self raising flour? Very odd mixture if true.

I’m reading a book set in Russia, (Moskva by Jack Grimwood if you really need to know) as today’s contribution to my ‘One a Day’ regime – books may not have as many vitamins as fruit but provide longer lasting enjoyment.

The Russian word for 'solitude' means 'being with everybody.’ Russians called poustinikki would withdraw to the desert (poustinia) and live in solitude, but not actually in isolation. Poustinikki relished living alone, but turned up in the nearest settlement from time to time for a brief dose of wine, women and song and then toddled off back into the desert wastes to recuperate.

That sounds a fair life balance.

Marigold not too keen on my latest suggestion for keeping Corona virus at bay. They’re telling us the inability to detect smells is a symptom, but my new health check method obviously needs a bit more work. I blame those beans on toast for giving me the idea.

Now we can’t go out to shop, ordering food – better make that ‘requesting’ – to be delivered requires great tactical planning. We need a list, an approved strategy and hitherto untouched levels of organisation. None of these actions is easy for us.

Marigold writes a long list of all the meals we’re going to eat and the ingredients each one needs. Then she rips it up, laughing in a rather unsettling fashion.

We just don’t function like this.

We end up with a list for the butcher and another for the greengrocer. How simply marvellous, I hear you say, supporting local tradesmen. Well, yes, but there is also the matter of the sheer impossibility of getting a delivery ‘slot’ from the major supermarkets.

Frustrated in my hunter gatherer prime, I tried the ‘locals’ and they’ve been as good as gold. Fruit, veg, meat, bread, milk, we can get it all. Okay, we don’t always get what we asked for but it seems churlish to mention that the substitution of a cucumber for a pack of oranges, for example, is even remotely close to what was requested so we just get on with it.

A supermarket delivery would be cheaper, no doubt, but ordering online would deprive Marigold of an opportunity to have a laugh with the veg man when she phones in our order.

Order? Better make that a wish list.

They’ve never met, but what would for anyone else be a quick two minute phone call takes at least a quarter of an hour and Marigold gets to hear all about the veg man’s ingrowing toenail. Even Waitrose don’t offer that service.

Friedrich Nietzsche, amongst many other pearls of wisdom said, ‘the most common form of human stupidity is forgetting what one is trying to do.’

Freddie, you got that right.

Incidentally, I do try to check any quotes I use here that pop into my head as being deemed relevant to what I’m writing at the time. It’s someone’s actual words after all; better get the words in the right order. The Nietzsche quote I wrote down then went to check on it.

Nailed it, exactly word for word. Gold star.

I do find it a little alarming how accurately I can still recall quotations, snatches of poetry, obscure facts hoarded in my memory many, many years previously yet struggle to write today’s date and month with any degree of accuracy.

Years? I’m not too bad on years. It’s 2020 and has been for quite a while now. I’ve got that bit sussed. Months are a struggle lately and as for knowing what day it is, one of them will have to do. They all seem the same now anyway.

Anyway, back to Friedrich, I was attempting to trim my wilderness man beard into something bearing an approximate resemblance to ‘smart’ the other day while pondering on matters of great importance. No idea what those were, but when I reconnected with reality I noticed I now had a bushy left sided visage and a bare right side. It’s easier to subtract than add in situations such as this, so I was forced to complete the job and am now clean shaven.

It’s been a while since I looked at this fresh faced, apple cheeked youngster in the mirror so it was with a sense of expectation I wandered into the kitchen to find Marigold.

‘You look awful,’ she said. ‘How long before you can hide all that away again?’ If beauty really is in the eye of the beholder it’s a most unfair system. I almost wish I’d retained the option of retaining a stub of moustache. I don’t imagine Adolf Hitler was ever banished and told not to reappear until his face was once again covered in a three day stubble at the very least.

Of course, this isolation situation, it’s nothing new to us. Quite a while ago now I wrote in this blog about the year we spent living in a ruin, at that stage not even worthy of being called a house, in a gloriously remote region of Southern France. That year in the Corbieres was true solitude, we didn’t see anyone at all as there was nobody there to see. Birds, snakes, scorpions and the occasional wild boar, that was it. We both agree, it was the best year of our lives.

If you’re interested and haven't read it before, or even if you have, that blog post is called Living Like Hermits. There are links to all the posts at the top of the page. It's one of the early ones. 

Here's what I looked like yesterday. The resemblance is uncanny.n

Now reduced to this. Oh, hang on, that was taken before Marigold scalped me and I was 'outside' so it can't be a current photo.

Sadly, this is what I'm reduced to now. No wonder Marigold started screaming.

I've still made a better job of aging than some. Here's Brit Ekland in her prime

This is now. No further comment needed.

Friedrich - now THAT’S a moustache

That could have been my ‘look.’ Okay, maybe not.