Monthly Archives: March 2023

Times change – thankfully

bogrollPhil: It’s a funny old world. Facebook reminded me that it’s two years since the great bogroll shortage. Two years, and it’s already receding into our memories.

Having a blog allows for interesting looking back. A couple of years ago, we were getting into the first Covid-induced lockdown. At the time, we had no idea what was ahead. The press was full of doom, the government were flailing around with limited data and none of us know what the future looked like, or even if there was a future to look forward to.

Candice wrote how it all seemed like an apocalyptic science-fiction story.

I tried to be funny, and then stopped again.

When people bang on about the war, they often say it’s important not to forget, and that’s a little bit true about the pandemic. OK, it’s not fully over, but most of us have managed to get back to our normal lives. Although there is a facemask in my bag and the pockets of my most-worn jackets, it takes a very busy train for me to put it on. When I spot someone masked up, it now seems unusual.

Another part of me wants to forget. It was a horrible time. I remember walking by kids’ playgrounds locked up and covered with tape instructing youngsters to stay away. There were rules that most of us stuck to. Sitting in the Nolan garden, clutching an umbrella in the rain, chatting through her patio door because I wasn’t allowed in the house wasn’t exactly a high point, especially now we know that those in charge had decided the same rules didn’t apply to them.

“May you live in interesting times” is (according to Google) a Chinese curse, and having lived through some, and still living through others, it’s easy to see what they mean. Interesting times are best kept for novels and films. I’ll stick to boring ones, where I can relive those moments as memories.

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The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital

TImg_3710hree unlikely friends. One chance to save the community. It might just be the perfect blend…

The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria is at the heart of St Jude’s Hospital. Staffed by successive generations of dedicated volunteers, for over fifty years the beloved cafeteria has been serving up a kind word and sympathetic ear along with tea and scones.

Hilary, the stalwart Manageress, has worked her way up through the ranks; Joy, the latest recruit, is driving Hilary mad by arriving late every day; and seventeen-year-old Chloe, the daughter of two successful surgeons, is volunteering in the holidays and bemused by the older women.

But when they discover the cafeteria is under threat of closure, the unlikely trio must put aside their differences. As they realise the secrets and sorrows they have in common, the women grow closer – but can they bring the community together and save the day?

Phil: Here’s an interesting problem. I enjoyed this book – it’s an undemanding romp and fun along the way – but all the time I was puzzled. Where was it set?

St Jude’s Hospital is the obvious answer. But where is this? Which country?

It’s one where they spend money in dollars. Healthcare is a business, but the money has the Queen’s head on, and people aspire to work for the BBC.

For a long while, I wondered if this was a British book that had been partially translated to an American scene (the dollars bit). It wasn’t until the end that there was mention of thanking the Australian publisher – of course! That would also explain the house with storage space underneath it too. Not something we tend to have in the UK, and if we do, we call it a cellar.

The other issue is that the main characters are all really interesting women, but we don’t really get to work that out until halfway through the story. OK, we figure out that Chloe doesn’t really want to be a doctor pretty early, but her endless water-guzzling had me assuming some sort of eating disorder, which it wasn’t.

Hilary has suffered a divorce, and more importantly, a fall from grace, when her husband (who turns up very briefly late in the book) turns out to be bankrupt, their life of luxury being a sham. Her relationship with her sister is fascinating, and a little under-explored. She also can’t use email, which infuriated me as I think someone who lived like she did would be a lot more tech-savvy.

Finally, Joy is really the centre of the story, and we learn of her loss and how she deals with her late husband. This was possibly the least satisfactory area – she talks to him and seems to interact, but we eventually learn this is all in her head. I like my narrators to be honest with me, but this might just be my very literal take on things.

Despite reservations, there’s a fun book here. I just wish someone had put a kangaroo in the first few pages so I knew where I was.


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