Mary Irvine blogging about a break

jig saw mary

I recently decided to take a break from computer and mobile ’phone – using the latter only for ‘emergencies’ (there weren’t any) or to confirm meetings of the pleasurable sort. Off I went for two weeks to stay with friends in Upminster, the last stop on the District Line. It was actually arranged by my son who paid for the flight and exhibition fees.

The journey began with a flat battery on the car that was to take me to the airport. I had visions of a £50 taxi to get me there in time but my friend, Catriona, to whom the car belonged, was as resourceful as ever and got me to the airport in goodly time. The flight was uneventful and the special assistance efficient and friendly as always. My friends, Mike and Linda, were waiting to collect me and my break had begun. Their dog Ruffus, obtained from Battersea Dogs’ Home, greeted me enthusiastically. He always reminds me of the Egyptian god, Anubis, the head part, that is,

I had first met Linda in 1973 when she came up from London to attend a Diploma Course in the Education of Handicapped Children (that’s what it was called at the time!) We both passed and Linda returned to resume her career in London. I remained in Hull to resume mine. We kept in touch and later her husband, Mike, was added to my very small group of friends. I did know a lot of people though. They had three girls and I got to know them well. I even took the oldest, Abi, on a Classical Tour of Greece when she was eleven. It was great fun. Well, I thought so.  I appreciated that all three daughters plus three grandchildren and a four month-old grandson, Jordan, made the time and effort to visit me.

My first relaxation was to produce a completed jigsaw puzzle. It was one of a set of three, two of which I had completed on previous visits. I have completed hundreds of jigsaws during my lifetime. For most I have worked without recourse to the picture on the box, using patterns, colour and shape. I actually find jigsaws very calming so that kick-started my break.

The first Sunday we welcomed Angelos to lunch. It’s become something of a tradition. Angelos, from the island of Ǣgina, had been one of my students on the island of Spetses when I was living and working there and he was at the Anargyrios College. He subsequently left Greece to find work abroad, first in the Netherlands, before becoming domiciled in the U.K. Having been granted permanent residency he now considers himself a Londoner and has made every effort to assimilate, without losing his identity. At least one Greek trait remains. He always turns up with flowers, chocolates and wine.

Another ex-student with whom I met up in Westminster was Dimitris from Athens. I had taught him, his brother Lukas and father Spiros when I was working in that city. Dimitris is at Imperial College, London completing a PhD. He is also very keen on the triathlon and has competed all over the world. He came 12th out of 228 in the March 2020 Lykabbetus race. I could barely walk it! We spent over three hours in ‘The Clarence’ pub, over a couple of drinks. Although a wee bit crowded there was a great atmosphere. The food was good and the waitress friendly. Can’t comment on value for money as I didn’t pay and was far too polite to look at the prices.

It was a very nostalgic time for me talking to Dimitris. I hadn’t realised how much I missed Greece – what I had there. Our time over Dimitris insisted on seeing me safely onto the tube before he left, till next time.

the wind whispers her name

One day I decided to walk into Upminster High Street, deciding I’d sat around long enough. I got halfway there and got on a ’bus, Linda having kindly given me an Oyster card. Am not as fit as I used to be. It’s been a long winter… My main purpose was to leave a copy of my novel, ‘The Wind Whispers Her Name‘ in the local library. Not sure what will actually happen to it. I did go into a Costa Coffee shop and had a medium cappuccino and two slices of seeded brown toast and butter.  It was very good and cost less than £5. Upminster seems to be an up and coming eating place. There were dozens of ‘eateries’ and quite a variety.

MT 9239 Ruffus Orton copy

(Ruffus photo by Mike Taylor)

Mostly I sat doing very little apart from contemplating on the garden life. There were lots of tiny frogs emerging from the pond. Ruffus and the cats were very interested in this phenomenon.

I had promised myself to complete at least two books during my break. The two were ‘The Way Home’ by Robin Scott-Elliot and ‘Hatter’s Castle’ by A.J. Cronin. I also caught two exhibitions – the main reason for my visit. . The first was ‘Troy’ at the British Museum. The second was ‘Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh – Tutankhamun’ at the Saatchi Gallery.

Reviews of the books and exhibitions will follow shortly.

The journey home was uneventful and I was home in time to join the Mackintosh group of writers for our usual Friday afternoon get together at the Helensburgh Library.

For Ruffus…                           

Anubis Reborn


lost  rejected  cast aside

renounced  scorned  thrown out

discarded  rebuffed



found  chosen  accepted  prized

cherished  cared for  held dear

respected embraced


Mary Irvine, March, 2020

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This section: Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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