The Dreaded Christmas Newsletter

The Christmas cards are fluttering in through the letter box, and so are the round robin letters, lovingly composed to bring you up to date with all the people you no longer remember. This may be my favourite so far.

holly garland

Dear friends




My, doesn’t time fly! I supposed that’s what happens when you’re our age. 2015 has been a very special year for us although, as John likes to points out, it hasn’t quite ended yet.

Our exciting year kicked off with damp-proof treatment to our lounge. The builders got plaster dust literally everywhere, including in my beloved knitting basket. After the re-plastering, we re-decorated. We spent many an evening debating the relative merits of Magnolia versus Almond White. John got the Almond White he wanted. Well, he is the Man of the House.

Here is where I usually include some of the best photos of our year. Our 2014 Christmas letter featured an xray of my new hip, so this one, taken in our garden, is rather different.


Not, alas, the much anticipated bumper crop of berries on our pyracanthus, because John had a bit of a go with the pruning shears right after his latest parking ticket.  At least this time he didn’t punch the traffic warden, which you will agree is a good thing if you recall our Christmas letter 2013.

Since John and I have long retired, the most interesting career developments are the children’s. I am excited to tell you that daughter Tabitha has finally decided what she wants to do, and is now a tattoo artist’s model.

Our son Graham, who takes more after me, has found his knitting business has really taken off. To complement his range of egg-cosies, he now offers knitted ties, and he has sold three of them in just four months!

In March I had another bout of shingles, and John had an attack of gout. However this did not stop us from enjoying foreign travel. John and I went to Scotland in April. The weather was not as sunny as we had hoped, but we got to play a lot of gin rummy.

Six months ago, I joined a book club which seems quite fun. We do not yet have a Book of the Month. There are however a number of wine labels that are required reading.

The rest of our year was taken up with the replacement of my hip replacement. Here I must thank all our medical friends who got in touch just after receiving our 2014 Christmas letter and pointed out that the stem of the prosthesis was incorrectly positioned. Taylor

Wishing you and yours all the blessings of the Christmas season, and a wonderful new year to come with peace and prosperity to all (with the exception of ISIL, as John wants me to point out).

Love from

Judy and John




holly garland

What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say

As invitations from a financial adviser go, this one was a tad unusual. But I was looking forward to what His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to say about compassion.

We’d been to the O2 Arena before. As I passed the famous balls at the entrance, I wondered: where on the spectrum between Monty Python and Ed Sheeran would this ageing religious rock star fit in?

blue balls in O2 entrance

I’d never met His Holiness, as he is called, but I’ve been on first name terms with one of his dogs. As a teenager, I earned pin money walking Chota Peg, a Lhasa Apso given by the Dalai Lama himself to a neighbour of ours. The breed’s distinguishing feature as far as a 13-year old dog walker is concerned is that its back end looks just like its front, which may explain why I never knew which way we were going.

Now, what to wear to hear His Holiness at the O2? My son assured us that the Dalai Lama would surely be content if we rolled up in yellow sheets, but the good people in hospitality would probably expect us to be in clothes.

So, clothes it was.

Protesters formed a tidy encampment outside the venue.

protest against 'False Dalai Lama'

I can’t fault the O2, especially if you’re hungry or thirsty. We poked our heads into the VIP lounge which has a 70s vibe and possibly the best Bloody Marys in the world, though that wasn’t what we’d come for.

VIP lounge at O2

The Dalai Lama’s warm-up acts were an amazing singer and a young choir. In appreciation, His Holiness bestowed garlands and pats on the head. There’d have been suspicions had he been a Catholic priest or an iconic DJ.

The real disappointment of the day was the Dalai Lama’s address. Martin Luther King he wasn’t. And I should know

The audience was there to hear about compassion as the foundation of well-being. But the man was rambling and inaudible, and, without surtitles à la Glyndebourne, almost incomprehensible. Was the sound system at fault? We cupped our ears, straining to catch the words, trying hard to work out which way he was going.

I’ve heard that HH has spoken eloquently on many occasions. Saturday was not one of them. The unstructured address was punctuated by his trademark chuckling at his own jokes. The question and answer session at the end was even worse. If this was the poster boy for peace and harmony, no surprise the world is in such a mess.  

However the day was not a total loss. The weather was kind and we’d met some interesting people at the event. Fortified by vodka and friendship, we went on the Emirates Air Line

cable car

It’s only a ten minute journey in a cable car, during which you can see Docklands and indeed much of London clearly, including the City and the Thames Barrier. I watched the Thames flow, barges glide past, people amble, trains roll by. 

view of O2 and Docklands

We got off at Victoria Docks and visited the Oiler, a bar on a barge. Next to it, people squeezed themselves into wetsuits and tried out water-skiing.

The Oiler, Docklands

It’s a good place to sit and reflect on peace, and on where to find it.


Easy tweet: What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say at the O2 @DrCarolCooper strains to hear him

You may also like:  Dalai Lama says female successor must be ‘very, very attractive’ otherwise she is ‘not much use’; in Times of India.


An Evening at the Proms

Geoff mops his brow as he steps through the doorway and into the shade. Glancing down at his ticket, he remembers the invariable rule of the Royal Albert Hall: whichever door you enter, it’s diametrically opposite where you need to be.

Albert Hall

He heads from door 4 to 12, stopping off at the café for a Coke Zero.

All human life is there already: young people with rucksacks, alte kakker in Birkenstocks, middle-aged women with sunhats. Only one person seems to have dressed up for the occasion, and she’s got purple hair, a pierced nose and a tuxedo ripped in multiple places. When did people stop wearing smart clothes to concerts?

Sitting next to Geoff, a middle-aged woman nurses a large glass of rosé. Every two seconds she looks up at the entrance.

Her date finally turns up. Rosé woman comes to life, falling over herself to greet him. When the man sits down, she babbles constantly and paws his wrist.

Geoff gets to his seat in the Choir (West). The lights dim and tonight’s fare begins with a Brahms piano concerto. So far, so soporific thinks Geoff, despite the energetic pianist.

inside the Royal Albert Hall

Part two is Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass. It may not be a Mass, but it has everything else, Geoff reckons: choir and solo voices in some unidentifiable language, plus brass, wind, strings, drums galore and that massive organ which is almost in his right ear. Geoff studies the cellists. A fellow student once told him cellists were the raunchiest of the lot, as they were used to stroking a mighty instrument between parted thighs. He can well believe it.

According to the notes in Geoff’s lap, Janáček was keen on pan-Slavism, and his mighty work celebrates nationhood and peace.organ

That’s not something that Geoff can figure out from the music. There are noisy outbreaks from various instruments. Now the horns. Then the snare drums. Strings come in, and an exquisite harp.

Janáček, it’s also said, placed his nationalistic beliefs above the welfare of his own daughter. Geoff would have had words with him. Nothing on earth matters to him more than his son.

The conductor chops the air with his hands, then dangles his fingers like jelly fish. The orchestra hangs on every move of his digits. Then the organ erupts into a fantasia.

Nationhood and peace, muses Geoff. Chance would be a fine thing. The world could use a damn good conductor.


*For those not in the UK, the BBC Proms (or more exactly the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts) are an annual summer season of concerts in London, most of them held in the Royal Albert Hall.