The one thing about working from home is that the trolley doesn’t come round.  If I want a bun, cup of tea or a Wagon Wheel I’m going to have to get up and get it myself.

I worked in an office once where the keeper of the trolley would announce, around 11.00 each morning, ‘Trolley!’ in a voice like someone demanding a light be put out during the Blitz.

In the days before the confusion of which type of continental coffee you wanted and the shops supplying them not existing, trolleys would be rolled round offices.  They were like the school tuck shop, only on wheels and pushed by woman seemingly over 100 with a fag hanging out of her mouth, adding an unnecessary layer to her doughnuts. 

It was also a welcome break in the day; fag breaks were a thing of the future working in ‘60s and ‘70s.  Plus, if I’d got on the smoking carriage of the Tube from Balham Station, I really didn’t need a fag break.

The tea-lady was scary and/or predatory.  Did I want to sample her iced buns when I finished work?  Probably not, and always had a note from my mum excusing me of such liaisons dangereuses.  

So, work for me, around 11.00 in the morning became like school PE lessons: full of dread and the fear my pants would fall down while doing a handstand, thus risking getting third-degree burns off a giant tea urn.  

End of the tier show

As we approach the end of a rather bizarre year, there are words in 2020 which meant slightly different to when I was growing up in my Balham flat in the ‘60s.  

Corona: this was the brand of cream soda and cherryade I’d buy from my school tuck shop.

Quarantine: if you travelled back from a foreign land, this is what Rover or Tiddles had to do for the best part of a decade.

Mask: unless your occupation was a surgeon, highwayman or the Lone Ranger, the only time you wore a mask was playing Blind Man’s Buff or Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Lockdown: when you’ve lost your door keys. Or someone’s escaped. 

Social distancing: what you did if you wanted to avoid certain people at your local whist drive.

Trump: a word used during a whist drive either pertaining to a suit of cards or flatulence. Or both.

Tier 1: what you give guests at a wedding

Tier 3: what you give guests at a Christening 

Tier 2: what people who really don’t need to eat more cake tuck into during a wedding

Tier 4: opening words of Ken Dodd’s signature tune

Bubble: a thing you blew, and in the process, got washing-up liquid all over your hands; now you need to douse your hands in Fairy while singing “Happy Birthday”.

R: used to be a letter, now it’s a number.

Zoom: was a lolly until 1982 when Fat Larry bought Lyon’s Maid. 

COVID: what Glamorgan is now called.

Seven deadly syns

Whenever I go on holiday I like to read about the place I’m visiting: Jamaica Inn in Cornwall; Mayor of Casterbridge in Dorset; the Clangers annual if ever I make it to the Moon.

As a teenager I’d spend many summer holidays on the Kent coast; my reading there was the Dr Syn novels. Dr Syn was a clergyman by day and head of a Romney Marsh smuggling gang at night.

The 7 novels were written between 1915-1944 and two films came out of the writing. I only saw part of the 1963 adaption.  I was so traumatised by Dr Syn, terrifyingly dressed as a scarecrow, my mum had to take me out of the Balham Odeon, probably before the usherette called the local health visitor or hit me with a Kia Ora to shut me up.

Dr Syn was ultimately hanged in the final book, but in the current times he’d have escaped that fate as he’d not been able to carry anything out if he was working from home.  You cannot offload stolen barrels of French rum from a boat via a Zoom call.

I’d have made a dreadful smuggler: fear of water (worse than that of hanging); don’t like rum (even in a bar of Old Jamaica) and don’t look good in a scarecrow outfit.

Also, at my age, I’m quite susceptible to marsh ague.  Rum Baba anyone?

Mrs Mills solves a problem like Maria

mrs mills

Not that I went to the theatre before the lockdown, but now, thespians around the world are bringing their offerings, using live streaming, into your front room.
To make this experience even more intimate I believe you should take part in the actual screening: if it’s Les Misérables then sling all your cushions onto the carpet and build a barricade; if it’s Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and his technicolour dream coat, get that crochet kit down from the loft and help the Family Jacob out – it doesn’t have to be any special material – any wool will do (see what I did there?) and, if you’re watching Macbeth, and you have lodgers, try not to murder them in their sleep and watch what’s being put into that evening’s stew.
It’s also your chance to be the next Vanessa Redgrave or Neil Pearson (good Tooting boy) and say the lines as your favourite character. Take the TV remote, hover your finger over the “mute” button and when it’s your turn say: “To be or not to be”; sing: “I dreamed a dream” or re-enact the fight scene from Women in Love – although mind that fire.
Give it everything – no one will see you (if you’ve got nets); no one will hear you (unless you’ve not got double-glazing) and no one will say anything unless the nets are in the wash, the windows are wide open and you’ve left the living room light on.
And if all that fails, get that nun’s costume out and pretend to be Julie Andrews singing about a goatherd with no mates and potential altitude sickness.
Plus, who needs an excuse to put on an excessive amount of make-up? Oh dear, time for the lockdown to end.
Ready for you now, Mrs Mills.



Given the current lockdown, 1967 was a very important year for me.
As a ten-year-old living in south London, this was the year I attained my Cub’s Signallers’ Badge.
As I still work, my communications these days involve Zoom (not the lolly, nor the 1982 Fat Larry’s Band hit); Webex (like Zoom, only with more spiders) or Teams (not ideal if you’re an only child). House Party isn’t perceived as professional, plus I’m at an age when most things are too loud anyway, so this method won’t ever feature with my client calls.
The novelty of video calls has worn off; so I’ve ordered a set of giant semaphore signalling flags, as my future communication will be waving these frantically from the roof of my house.
My training, back in 1967, involved several wintry weeknights going to a house in Tooting to be taught semaphore by a man so old he could have been Samuel Morse. There was no bell on the front door, just a selection of tom-tom drums in the porch with which to send messages saying you were outside the house (oh, and please either open the door or pop an umbrella through the letterbox).
With my work cap on, as opposed to my Cub cap (and matching woggle), I will be starting business meetings with no introductory pleasantries, but with messages I learned during my 1967 communications course: “My boat is sinking”; “Can anyone erect a tent?” and “I think I’ve burned my sausages”.
In case the latter is construed as a euphemism, I’ve also ordered a set of Aldis lamps.

You’ll be lucky


I had to look up what two-metres was in old money. Turns out it’s six-foot, six and a half. I am six and a half inches smaller than that so, if I’m social distancing, I have to lie down and visualise I’ve grown another head.
Apart from very small basketball players, what else is two-metres, so I can mentally imagine this distance in shops?
There is a chart for children which depicts how tall things are, enabling them to see where they fit: Queen Victoria (very short at 152cm); a baby giraffe (183cm) or a female ostrich (194cm). This is as high as the chart goes, the assumption being that, once your child has grown to six- foot-three, they probably aren’t that interested in marking how tall they are with a pencil.
We are now a nation where, if you want to talk to anyone not in your household, you’re going to have to learn how to project your voice (sales of Betamax videos of John Gielgud Acting for Beginners Masterclasses have gone through the roof). People are keeping a safe distance and talking to your neighbour across a fence is (after an absence of about fifty-years) making a coming back.
Up and down the country people are re-enacting Al Read sketches.
And the safe distance either side of a fence will be one-metre of bedding plant. If you’re shouting across the fence, make sure you pronounce the word begonia correctly or Neighbourhood Watch will be on your case.
So, if you see people walking down the street dressed like Bernie Clifton, don’t worry, they’re only going to have a gossip with their neighbour.
Anyone got a cup of sugar?

Speaking Mandarin segments


With panic buying now a way of life, like watching Corrie or turning the gas off before you leave the house. And, as it becomes so, will our diets change or perhaps we might revert to things you’d forgotten about since childhood, but now remains the only things left on the shelves?
Over the decades, with the introduction of increasingly exotic foods, there must have been a point when you told yourself: these are the last tinned peaches I’m eating.
I think many of us of a certain age can remember refusing to eat corned beef because of its connotations with typhoid – not a good marketing gimmick. (This was before the Falklands War and blaming the Argentinians came naturally even in the early ‘60s).
It used to be perceived as a treat – opening up a tin of fruit in syrup – especially if it involved a glacé cherry – although an inevitable family fight would ensue over whose cherry this was as there was usually only one half in each tin. The scuffling being good practice for shopping these days?
There does, though, seem to be a surfeit of hundreds & thousands – always a treat to top off a tinned pear, less so corned beef.
Along from the pear halves, mandarin segments and peach slices are tins of prunes; given the paucity of toilet roll, this is far too much of a risk. And, as such, my collection, in the loft, of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly magazines, are now beginning to look highly endangered.  Spam’s off, love

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Rapunzel


What bloody day is it?
I’ve not felt this day confusion since my last six-week school holiday and given my last playtime was forty-seven years ago, I’ve lost count which day it is.
Given the lockdown could last for months, I’ve decided I might get a set of seven underpants and, together with my name tag, sew in a label stating which day of the week it is.
The only problem, given the current shortages and delays in deliveries of certain items, you can’t guarantee what you want and end up with a substitution like when the Ocado delivery person gives you spam when you’d ordered sun-dried tomatoes.
Having ordered my daily pants, I notice from the confirmation, that they will all be Disney-themed. Therefore, no need for any sewing-in of any day tags, I shall simply create a mnemonic to remember which day it is: Mickey; Tigger; Woody (insert your own gag here); Tinkerbell; Anyone from Frozen; Simba and Snow White.
The inherent danger here is if it’s Thursday and I have an accident with Tinkerbell pants on.
My favourite Disney character is Pinocchio – sadly there in no day of the week beginning with P, so I won’t be wearing those; no bad thing if I ever started to lie wearing them. Mind you, in this cold weather, that’s largely academic.
Do you want to build a snowman?