Tuesday, 29 March 2022

VICTORIAN POVERTY: Coming to your neighbourhood soon

  "I was one day dealing with a case in which a poor woman was in great distress of mind because she had got some washing to do and had not the money to obtain the necessary materials wherewith to accomplish the work.

    "I shall lose eighteenpence if I can't get it done," she said, with tears in her eyes, "and perhaps lose other work too, for people who have washing to give out won't study you if you have to disappoint them."

"You don't look fit to stand at the wash-tub," I said, noting her weak and hunger-worn appearance.

"I could manage that all right," she exclaimed eagerly. "By working late I could get it done and take it home to-night, and then I could get something to eat out of the pay for it. As to eating, though," she added, " I am thinking more of the children than of myself. It is not often that we are so hard put to it, but this morning they had to go to school without breakfast, poor little things They knew it was my misfortune and not my fault that I had nothing for them to eat, and they tried to be brave and not to cry, but you could see their poor little lips quivering."
 I had every reason to believe that the woman was telling a literal and painful truth. Her husband was sober, and steady, and until a year previously had been a strong and capable labourer, able to command tolerably constant employment. But one day when engaged upon some heavy work he had, in labourers phrase, "overlifted" himself. From that time he had been, "off and on," an out-patient of various hospitals, and was practically an invalid.
"You had better get something to eat before starting your work," I said, in reference to her last remarks. "Here are two tickets, each for a shilling's worth of goods; they will enable von to get a little food, as well as the washing materials you require."

"Oh, thank you," she exclaimed, her face flushing with pleasure; "won't the little ones be delighted when they come home and find I have got a dinner for them?" - The Pinch of Poverty, by The Riverside Visitor

Saturday, 26 March 2022

The iPhone has landed!

As some of you know (see previous blog if you don't) I have recently parted company with a certain media platform, represented by a small winged blue avian. Now, I am NOT the sort of individual to reacts well to be chucked off stuff (also see previous blog), so having tried various return pathways, and being told '*itter says no', it was decided (note the distancing phrase) to buy an iPhone.

It seemed a good idea when suggested. I could join the 99.9% of the population. No more lurking about in the Doro cave. Bright new horizons of communication, bathed in the sunshine of up-to-dateness beckoned. I was seduced. My only stipulation was that the new phone had to be RED.

And it arrived. And it was red. And so the nightmare began. Going from the dumbPhone to this phone was like landing on a new planet without a Lonely Planet travel guide. In the past few days I have reached levels of incompetence so low you couldn't limbo under them.

1. I thought ALL these devices were called iPhones. Yup. Only was abused of this when I met a friend for coffee and was told that her phone was a Samsung.

2. You know that thing where the optician says: 'So, what's the lowest line you can read on the screen?' and your brain goes: 'What line?' That. They don't make these devices for the myopic, do they?

3. It doesn't like my cold finger (if you wish to sing 'Cold Finger' at this point, please don't). 

4. Autocorrect. The typist's worst enema. I bought a lovely jumper for Small in the sale, took a picture and sent it to You Must Be Mad in New York. The jumper was by Boden. NOT BIDEN - OK???

5. I have lost 25.8k lovely followers by being chucked off *witter. Given my lack of competence, I will probably never get them all back.

But. Rome wasn't burned in a day. And in 3 weeks, Little G (and Small) are coming to the UK for a visit, so I shall pick her brain, because even an 8 year old has to be more savvy than I am right now. Meanwhile it's a case of onward through the fog. Or  'frog' as autocorreect would probably say.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Places I've Been Banned From ~ An Odyssey


As the dust slowly settles on my Twitter ban, I am thinking about all the places I am or was not persona grata over the past 71 years. There are quite few. I am shocked.

1. The American Embassy 1966 : I only found out about this in retrospect. It came about as a result of an anti-Vietnam War demo a few of us organised on Welwyn Garden City Campus (that hotbed of revolution and radicalism). We were all banned for 10 years from entering the US. 'Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland' (Paul Simon.)

2. O Level Geography Class : Quote from Miss Walker: "I'm not having you in my class, you're disruptive." I have NO IDEA what she meant, other than I did get sent out of her class a couple of times, and used to hang from the window frame above the door, wiggling my fingers. She clearly didn't appreciate this impromptu gesture. But this is why, dear reader, I am unable to read a map without turning it round the way I am going, and I lose my car in multi-story carparks. All attributable to Miss Walker.

3. My family: It's what happens to Jews who 'marry out', especially if they didn't get on with their parents to begin with. This momentous event happened when I was 26. Apparently a rabbi was brought in, at the instigation of my Orthodox brother, and prayers were said over the dead. As in me. Their loss ~  my 'ex-parents' never got to meet my wonderful daughter.

4. Bits of the Parliamentary Estate: Post Brexit, the Met Police don't like us standing too close to the House of Commons etc. Or shouting. Whilst not technically a 'ban', I have been told off for chalking on the pavement outside the Cabinet Office too.

5. Harpenden Parents' Network Facebook Page: for daring to criticise posts by my Tory MP. Many of these 'local' pages are run by party loyalists, I gather. Luckily, St Albans still hosts me, so when we had a flood recently, I was able to access help.

6. Twitter: the latest ban. For being rude and hateful to a certain Home Sekertry. Come and say Hi to me on my new Instagram https://www.instagram.com/caroljhedges/ (or should that be Instagran?). I may be working my way back to Twitter, as I miss people, but it will be in another guise ...

7. The UK: Not happened yet ~ but if the Nationality and Borders Bill passes into law with Clause 9 re-inserted, the aforementioned Home Sekertry can take my citizenship away, without telling me or giving me the right of appeal. This is because 1: My parents came here as Jewish refugees, and like Windrush people, were naturalised, so not 'properly' British. 2. As a Jew, I could claim citizenship in Israel.

So there you are. Or in my case, there I'm not. It's pretty disgraceful and I am prepared to bet you can't equal it. Not that you'd want to, would you?

Saturday, 12 March 2022



I clearly remember the day the job started. It was summer. Bright sunshine pouring through the open window of my daughter’s London flat. We were visiting for Sunday lunch and making small talk with her lovely husband while she put the finishing touches to the meal.

Then my daughter walked in from the kitchen, carrying a dish of lasagne. She put it down on the table. She stood up and cleared her throat. ‘We have some news for you,’ she said and paused. ‘We’re expecting a baby.’

And for a second, the world stopped turning.

And then it started turning again.

But it was a new world.

I was the last of my group of friends to become a grandma. I’d congratulated, celebrated, commiserated. I’d cooed over other people’s baby pictures; peered into prams; helped them choose tiny clothes to give as presents; listened to their tales; nodded, smiled, and all the time, a small inner voice was just crying out: ‘When will it be my turn?”

The Job Begins

Ever since she turned one, I have looked after my gorgeous granddaughter two days a week from 7am to 7pm while my daughter returned to work. Currently my daughter is back home on maternity leave, having just given birth to my grandson. So now I mind ‘Little G’ for one day only.

Looking back over the past fourteen months, I have to say I never worked so hard, loved so hard, or laughed so hard in my life. I have never felt so exhilarated or so exhausted at the same time.

In the spirit of sisterhood, I offer the following thoughts for those who travel with me through this wonderful experience, or are about to start out on it.

9 Things I Love About Being a Grandma

#1: The overwhelming joy you feel when you first see your new-born grandchild.

#2: Realising that even after all those years you CAN still change a nappy and give a bottle.

#3: Sharing delight in a small stone, a bumble bee, a flower blooming in a crack in the pavement, a yellow school bus, an orange.

#4: Reaching into your bag for your mobile phone and finding:

  • Crumbs
  • A half-eaten packet of raisins
  • A green bottle top
  • A post it note with something you can’t read but it says Important at the top
  • An empty snail shell
  • A packet of crayons with one missing
  • A feather
  • Two toy cars

#5: Lying awake in the small hours just smiling and smiling over the memory of some funny thing that happened during the day. I started a blog to remember my special times with Little G. You forget so fast.

#6: Watching them enjoy eating the food you prepared for them.

#7: Singing the same song over and over because ‘again’ means ‘again’.

#8: Recalling that smile of triumph when they finally reach the top of the climbing frame all on their own for the first time.

#9: And best of all, two chubby little arms round your neck and a little voice whispering: ‘I love you, Grandma.’

So, are you a seasoned grandma or new one? Maybe you’ve just learned that you are about to become one for the first time? Please share your delights and joys of being a grandma in the comments below.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

THREE reasons to self-publish books

With imminent publication of the Ninth Victorian Detectives novel, Deceit & Desire, I have now moved into the entirely self-published category. And I been asked once again by several people why I decided not to stay with a commercial publisher.

Here are my reasons:

1. Control: As a self-published author, I  have a lot of autonomy. I can do whatever I like, publicity-wise, and if you follow me on Twitter (@carolJhedges) you will know that I do. I had very little autonomy with Usborne and OUP and I gather that some big publishing houses like to keep a close eye on their writers so they don't run amok on social media, which could rebound back on them. Also I gather that many houses prefer writers to promote other writers on their list (possibly why I rarely get promoted by Choc Lit writers, lovely though they are).

2. Choice: I  chose the wonderful Gina Dickerson ( @GinaDWriter ) of RoseWolf  Design to come up with my new covers. They are certainly quirky and different ... just like the stories .. and, dare I say it, like the author of the stories herself! When I was mainstream published, I had to accept whatever their in-house cover people produced whether I bought into the concept or not.

Also, I can choose and change the key words that help readers locate my books, and I can fiddle around with Amazon's book categories, if I want to. As I am an inveterate fiddler, I do.

3. Cash:  As a commercially published writer of adult fiction I was getting 40% of all ebook sales, far less on printed books. As a published children's writer that dropped to 12% of all book sales. And my then agent creamed off 10% on top of that. As Little G Books (my publishing imprint), I can command 70% of ebook sales. The difference in my monthly income figures has been remarkable.

Ok, I know it is all too easy nowadays to write a book, cobble together a cover and upload the finished product to Amazon. Advances in technology have opened up enormous opportunities for self-publishing that were never there when I started writing books, and that is a good thing.

I also acknowledge that inevitably, there is a lot of dross out there and it lets the side down. Poorly written and produced books with typos, badly designed covers, sold at rock bottom prices or given away for free, which is not the way I want to go.

However, despite the many ''Hey, I produced a book for virtually nothing'' blogs, the writers of the best self-published books have usually used beta readers, then paid out for professional editing, proofreading and cover designing. It is hard work at every stage, and having done it nine times now, I can attest to the pain.

But in a world where celebs are sneaking all the good publishing deals, and agents are less and less able to place books, if you can get an agent in the first place, I still think that going solo, if you can, is the best and most lucrative way of presenting your work to the reading public. And there is HUGE satisfaction from holding a book in your hand, or seeing it in a shop, and knowing that you produced yourself.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

A Letter from a Curious Citizen

 Dear Ms Patel

I know you are very busy at the moment processing thousands of applications from Hong Kong people with British National (Overseas) status plus their extended families, who have been given permission from you to settle in the UK. And then there are all the failed asylum seekers to be deported. I do appreciate that you have a lot on your desk. However, I wonder whether you can help me. You see, I remember what you promised when you were part of Vote Leave. 

You said: " There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully res
ident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourable than they are at present. (June 1st 2016 /Vote Leave)

Now, your government's position seems to have changed. EU citizens are told to apply for pre-settled status, or for settled status. This is a complicated procedure, involving a lot of past records, documents, photocopies and certificates about employment, NHS, tax, and all sorts of things that some, particularly the very old, or the disabled or those who came here to live because they had that thing called Freedom of Movement (remember it?) just don't have. Your department says applicants must register on an Android device or an iPhone. Again, some people do not have these either. 

You have certainly managed to deviate a long way from your original pledge, haven't you, Ms Patel?

Setting all this aside (as you seem to have done with our human rights and your promises), I find myself in a bit of a dilemma. You see, I am a dual national ~ I was born here, of Jewish German parents who arrived in the 1940s as refugees. As I lost family members in the Holocaust, I have applied for, and recently been granted, 'restored' German citizenship. So now I am a citizen of here, and a citizen of there simultaneously. 

But you say that any EU citizen without pre- or settled status post 30th June 2021 may be removed from the UK. So here is my problem, Ms Patel: 50% of me (the German bit) does not currently have pre- or settled status, and will certainly not have it by the required date. I would therefore be grateful if you could inform me, as soon as possible, which part of me will be deported, so that I can make the necessary preparations and warn my family.

Yours sincerely

Carol Hedges (British/German dual national)

Saturday, 29 February 2020

You Don't Have To Be Jewish ...

Hello. My name is Carol and I'm a hypochondriac. I am also Jewish. You don't have to be Jewish to be a hypochondriac, but if you want to do it properly, being Jewish gives you a definite edge.

No, I don't know why. Maybe it's thousands of years of knowing we are the Chosen People while being constantly told to go and be chosen somewhere else. Listen, what do I know? Am I an analyst?

I do know that I spend a lot of time on the internet googling symptoms that I might have. And I mean A Lot of time. As a result, I have narrowly escaped a whole raft of illnesses, including some that are apparently only present in cattle.

Being a Jewish hypochondriac means that I always make sure I add 'and cancer' just before I click the search button. Because that is the constant fear, lurking within the true devotee to self-suffering.

Obviously, having actually had cancer twice, I have an edge on other Jewish hypochondriacs, and on you as well. But I don't want to brag, here. Let's just say, I am more Chosen in my self-imposed neuroses than the rest.

Which brings us to the IBS. I have just started a hashtag #JewswithIBS, because we ALL seem to have it. Mine, since the Brexit result, the election result and a couple of family things, got so bad that I finally referred myself to the doctor. There's only so long one can go without a proper meal.

Long story short: every test, every scan, every X~ray came back 'negative'. No cancer. Anywhere. So I was sent on my way with several prescriptions for tablets that might 'help'.

But. You know those 'Read all of this leaflet carefully' instructions you get inside boxes of medication. Well, I always do. Thoroughly. Because it's always interesting to get a list of ready-made symptoms to worry about. First perusal knocked out Medication 1 that advised not to take it if you had no appetite and were losing weight.

This left Medication 2, which I started taking regularly, checking the warning list of adverse reaction carefully. And guess what ~ within a week, I was 'developing' symptoms: tingly fingers, dizziness, nausea, and a presumed difficulty operating heavy machinery.

So now I have to google every single symptom separately, in case any of them are related to the incipient cancer that the tests didn't find, but might be lurking somewhere for all I know.

As for the current Coronavirus scare ~ it's coming up fast on the outside rail. I shall be getting round to worrying about it, once I am able to operate heavy machinery again.
    Sufficient unto the day is the hypochondria thereof.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Rejoicing or 'Remoaning': How's your Brexit journey?

So how is it for you? Are you basking in those sunny uplands yet? Enjoying the gold dust of the Golden Age?  Celebrating your newfound status as OfBoris?

Me neither.

As many of you know, three years ago, as a direct result of the Referendum outcome, I applied for, and got, restored German citizenship, as my Jewish parents were forced to flee their birth country and my grandparents Alma and Rafaele were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. You can read about it here.

What I did not realise at the time, was that the after-effects of the Holocaust were felt not only by those who survived the camps, or escaped from Nazi Europe, but can be tracked, by some process I do not comprehend, in those born later.

In combat terms, it is like having PTSD. Another description could be 'survivor guilt'. For Jews like me, born to parents who got out of the utter hell that was Nazi Germany, it manifests as a constant reminder that however safe we feel, there lurks in the shadows of our past, a time when a whole nation lost its reason, when millions of people who had done nothing more than not be 'them', were denied basic human rights and dignity, rounded up, starved, worked to death, experimented on, or shoveled into huge ovens and gassed.

And we were told, over and over, by concerned parents and relatives that the time could easily come again, if the right circumstances and the wrong leaders align.

Listen, I grew up on stories of the gradual indifference of neighbours, the relentless seeping into public consciousness, via a carefully controlled media, that certain races and religions were responsible for all society's problems, and needed to be expunged from the face of the earth. I lived with it. I still do.

But back to you. How's your journey? Did you just shrug when the media was full of photos and video clips of Union Jack-waving white guys setting fire to EU flags and singing Rule Britannia? Were you concerned when certain journalists were banned from government briefings? Does it worry you that attacks on EU citizens (and Jews) have now become so frequent, they almost don't register as shocking any more?

You should be worried.

We, who carry the horrors of the past in our DNA, are lighting our candles and stepping out into the encroaching darkness, and as we hold them up in front of us, we can clearly see shapes and contours that are both alien and strange, and yet chillingly familiar at the same time.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

The Joy of Buses

I have written several pieces about the Joy of Buses. Basically, since getting my Freedom Pass, and selling the 2CV, I have taken to using local buses whenever I can because, apart from being ecologically better for the planet than other forms of transport, they are a source of great fun and adventure.

And there is so much fun to be had.

For instance, we regulars really enjoy it when we get a brand new driver who doesn't know the route too well. We all have a tacit agreement not to say anything when they go down the wrong road, because we like to see where we will end up. OK, it is a bit irresponsible, and yeah, we are sorry afterwards. Just not very sorry.

The other main source of amusement comes from the invisible bus stops. These are places where the bus has to stop, but for some reason, there is no actual bus stop to indicate it. There is a bus stop on the opposite side of the road, which has a timetable for 'the bus stop opposite', which gives the invisible stop viability, but there is no physical bus stop. We don't know why, but there are several on the main route into town.

The following true, if surrealistic, story took place last week, and to understand it, you have to factor in some roadworks, which meant that one of the regular bus stops was closed and moved 20 yards down the road to a 'temporary stop', chained to a lamp post so that the locals couldn't walk off with it, place it outside their houses and then complain to the bus company that the buses weren't stopping there. I am pretty sure this isn't why the temporary stops are chained to lamp posts, but it's what I'd do, given half a chance if they weren't.

I was on the bus with regular passenger and friend Rita. We rang the bell to get off, but the driver completely ignored us and kept going. Cue loud shouting from the back of the bus. Eventually the driver stopped. We made our way up the bus to his cab and pointed out that we'd rung the bell.

Driver (new one): I didn't stop the bus because there's no bus stop.
Me: There is a bus stop, it's just that it isn't an actual stop.
Rita: Look, there's a bus stop over the road, so there's a stop over here. That's how it works.
Driver: But there isn't a stop over the road.
Rita: It's only because it's been moved temporarily coz of the road works.
Me: And the stop on this side, that isn't an actual bus stop, hasn't been moved.

At which point the driver rolled his eyes, gave up, opened the doors and we got out. We decided to chalk it up as a point to us, because it was and WE are the bus queens!

Monday, 23 December 2019

Last Christmas I Gave you My Heart (Adventures of L-Plate Gran)

In answer to your unasked question: Little G's Nativity Play went down a storm. No baby was dropped. Small waved copiously and Grandma was so glowing with pride, you could have run the lights off her.

And so to Christmas. Excitement is building in You Must Be Mad's house. The tree is up. Small has not, so far, removed any of the decorations, as he did last year when he took a great fancy to a small felt dinosaur, which kept getting rescued, returned, and re-stolen.

This year, we are hosting the family, and I have decided to go for ecologically sound decorations of a 'growing in the garden' variety, so there is trailing ivy up the stairs, and holly, bay and rosemary festooning the dresser and pictures.

Christmas lunch will be a feast. Due to Small's veg phobia, diplomatic negotiations will take place beforehand over the number of peas deemed acceptable. L-Plate Granddad will set light to the Christmas Pudding, despite Health & Safety warnings, and everybody will don paper hats and tell cracker jokes that Small won't get.

However. There is a spectre at the feast. Next year, Little G & Small will be moving with You Must Be Mad, to New York to live. Six years of sharing our lives and having adventures together is going to come to an end. And under the jollity and rejoicing, the greenery, the presents, the food and fun, there will be two very broken adult hearts at the table.

But the show must go on. And it will. Because it has to.

Happy Christmas, everyone ....