Ferrero Rocher

For a number of years I’ve sung with a group called Sounds Familiar. About twelve of us regularly sing at residential care homes and day centres, aiming to bring greater enjoyment to the lives of those perhaps less fortunate than ourselves. As the name suggests our songs, from the 30s to the 60s, hopefully sound familiar and people can easily join in if they wish. We love singing and it’s great seeing our passion shared by the people we sing for, either by singing along or just tapping their feet.

We’ve never charged to sing, but any donations we’re offered go to the local Alzheimer’s Association – so far we’ve raised about £3,000.

Occasionally I adapt the lyrics of a well-known song to offer a more entertaining performance both for audiences and ourselves. For the month of December we switch to our Christmas repertoire of traditional songs and carols, and for Christmas 2015 I adapted the words of We Wish You a Merry Christmas to depict what a typical Christmas Day might be like! Entitled Ferrero Rocher, the following lyrics were well received, though because of its mildly rude connotation we only included the ‘Aunty’ verse in settings where we knew it would be appreciated!

You are welcome to use these lyrics in your own performances, in which case it would be nice please if you’d mention my name and website.


Ferrero Rocher  

(To the tune of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’)

 Your poor tree has started flopping

The needles already dropping

The light lead is in a tangle

And a bulb doesn’t work


(Chorus)    Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


A scarf knitted by your grandma

A book that you never asked for

Some socks that you’ll never wear, and

The gloves are too tight


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


Cheap crackers that won’t ignite, pa-per

Hats always very tight, cor-ny

Jokes only make you sigh, and

A small plastic frog


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


The table is fully loaded

You eat till you’ve all exploded

There’s no money in the pudding

And you have to wash up


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


The Queen’s message now of course is

Just before Only Fools and Horses

And a fire starting in East Enders

Brings festive good cheer


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


Your aunty is soon departing

Spent hours on the sofa far … (tiny pause)

Too much food, and it won’t be long till

You can all go to bed


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher



 tune)         And wherever you are

Both near and afar

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year



Copyright © Paul Costello November 2015






Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8


A Last Banana

I never cried when dad died. Not when I got the call, not at the funeral.

I remember mum dabbing at her eyes during the service in an ‘I can cope’ way, and my sister, red-eyed, keeping busy to get through the day.

My brother cried hardest. As the cortege passed through the cemetery gates, out of the solemn silence of our stately limousine came a deep wail, a pocket of grief broken free, cloaking us all. I still picture his anguished face and how mum put her arm round him, saying, ‘It’s all right, dear’ – like mums always do.

I thought that I too should be crying, and wondered if I didn’t care enough or whether others might think that. But in my heart I knew that not crying was okay. During his last years dad and I had learnt to laugh together, not weep. I could see him fading, and was sure that he too was reconciled. It wasn’t talked about much except by innuendo, but mum knew, and I knew, and with quiet dignity we all accepted what was happening.

I wanted more and more to greet him with a kiss, especially when he became sedentary then bed bound. He seemed to value this affection, pressing stubbled kisses along my cheek. His face would light up when I came in the room, and we’d chat easily, as much as you can with illness around you. Parting was never sad; we trusted how things were.

At the hospice one day, I found dad propped up neatly in bed. I held his hand and we talked a little, on and off, whatever came to mind. Suddenly he grabbed a banana from the table and peeled it with great deliberation. With a look that said, ‘Watch this, son!’ he gobbled it up in a few bites, as if to buy more time. He was eating very little by then, so it didn’t fool me. He lapsed into a misty state soon after, but we stayed looking into each other’s eyes in a way that would have felt awkward in ordinary times.

Before I left, I held his hand and kissed him tight on the forehead. As I drew back, his face lost its taut complexion, opening into a warm smile like an unexpected ray of evening sun. In silence, he gripped my hand tight as if to stop me leaving, and when finally he released me and I waved from the doorway, he still wore the same tender expression. That was the last time I saw him.

The hospice staff loved my dad and talked about him as though he was their only resident. He’d have liked that – pleasing those around him. I took a white rose for their scented garden; they invited me to come and see where it was planted, but I never went.

With the passing of time, mum is less sad. Photos of dad, from young soldier to wise old man, comfort her where she eats and sleeps. She keeps the grave tidy and gets on with life. Dealing with his loss.

As we all do – each in our own way.

Copyright Paul Costello © March 2014

The Commandments for Older People – Thou shalt …

Two Old PeopleThou shalt not wear chunky trainers with fluorescent flashes, nor shalt thou wear baseball caps, nor normal, nor sideways, nor back to front.

Thou shalt not wear miniskirts, nor speedos, nor socks with sandals.

Thou shalt not wear trousers with elasticated tops, nor cargo trousers lest thou shouldst overload the pockets of thine cargo trousers.

Thou shalt not blacken thine hair, nor black, nor any shade of black.

Thou shalt not over-comb thine hair, nor wear an ill-fitting hairpiece, nor a black hairpiece, nor a hairpiece not matching your hair.

Thou shalt not tell leery jokes, nor carry on telling these when thou art the only one laughing.

Thou shalt not flip thine hands at discos like a seal, nor shalt thou go up to do the Elvis karaoke.Two Old People

Thou shalt not use teen-speak, nor ‘cool’ nor ‘yo’ nor ‘ciao’.

Thou shalt not covet the young bargirl, nor young barman, nor their asses, nor their mates, nor anything you can’t follow through with.

Thou shalt share medical matters with thine neighbour, loudly, on the bus.

Thou shalt eyeball young people on the bus to get a seat.

Thou shalt raise thine stick at traffic to get across the road, even when thou dost not use a stick.

Thou shalt crunch loudly on Werther’s Original in quiet places.

Two Old PeopleThou shalt tell stories about thine life, without drawing breath lest people should interrupt.

Thou shalt speak thine mind as thine inhibitor cells break down, and allow thine deep-down prejudices to emerge, with no fear of castigation.

Paul Costello © November 2013


Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!


Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

A fabulous Christmas gift!


Programme Notes from Les Miserables

Look down, look down,

Don’t look ’em in the eye.

By the time Jean Valjean and his fellow convicts had hauled in the French Man O’ War, the couple to my left had nodded off – the man’s head tilted back against the wall, jaw loose,  the woman’s body twisted awkwardly over his chest.

Little surprise considering the intense heat laid on for matineés and the draining events of Les Misthe previous half hour. I’d counted sixteen of us filling the back row when the doors  opened and, in our early 60s, my friend and I were clearly the youngsters of the party. Outer clothes had been quickly discarded, and with the screen curtains still shut, a buzz of anticipation had filtered along the row as film reviews were shared and medical matters dissected.

‘I’ve heard it’s not as good as the stage version,’ the woman by my friend said, loudly. ‘But I’ll give it a chance’

‘Very noble of you,’ my friend replied.

‘Javert’s got a kidney stone. They take it out later,’ I thought I heard a woman say, although I doubted the stage show had been tampered with to that extent. Perhaps she meant someone else.

We’d hardly settled when a young usher came in.

‘Anyone dropped a Bus Pass?’ he called out. ‘Sorry, can’t give the name – Data Protection. But we’ve put it behind the hot chocolate counter.’

At this, the women of the row emptied purses of cards used for this, that and the other, whilst men checked front, back and side pockets of coats and trousers. To echoes of, ‘I know it’s in here somewhere,’ sixteen Bus Passes were eventually accounted for, and the usher had unwittingly added to our camaraderie.

But then the mood changed. A string of men in track suits came through the swing doors and took up the row in front of us. Word went round that they were basketball players from Bucharest at a tournament in Gloucester that evening. With their average height of six foot eleven and the cinema’s mean seating rake, we had a problem.

Taking the initiative, and not without a good deal of tutting and muttering, the couple at the end of our row moved into seats in front of the Romanians, encouraging others to follow, until we were all neatly ensconced in the third row from the back.

But to our surprise, in what seemed an intuitive counter-attack, the basketball team moved purposefully from their seats, once again lining up in front of us. Some people saw this as Les Misdecidedly anti-British. I heard mention of the European Community and unfounded comment on cultural differences, the net result of which was our second, more boisterous shift into the seats below the Romanians, followed by a bilingual exchange of views about what was right and who was entitled to what in Europe and in Cineworld.

It had become a grudge match. With the temperature rising in every sense, the Romanians took no time at all in re-establishing a positional advantage, and as the screen came to life and lights dimmed, so the battle between sixteen lanky basketball players and sixteen people of leisure, tumbling in childlike fashion down the centre stalls of Screen 6, had continued until the Romanians reached the front row.

The ignominy of defeat hung heavily over us. But we were not finished. Hushed tactics passed along the line, and at a signal from a man with a tartan cravat and navy Pringle sweater, we crept, under cover of a booming trailer for Red Dawn with which our rivals seemed pre-occupied, back up to the seats we’d started off in. The next few minutes, in which we sat tight-lipped, anticipating a re-run of the ten minute charade, passed peacefully. The Romanians seemed happy having extra leg room and  no-one in front of them, and we’d restored our viewing advantage.

‘Marvellous how they’ve designed a car that doesn’t need a driver,’ said the man next to me, as a slinky, red Golf drove itself across the screen.

‘No point advertising if it doesn’t need one,’ I suggested, wondering why in this heat he was still wearing his narrow-rimmed, check trilby.

With fifteen minutes to go, a mouth-watering advertisement had then informed us:

‘There’s still time to collect your refreshing Werther’s Original from the foyer – and, gentlemen, why not take the opportunity to make yourselves comfortable while you can.’

Announcement of this intermission, tailored for matineés, led to evacuation of the back row, but not before we’d possessively laid cardigans and cagoules across seats to discourage trespass. Outside, the eight women formed an orderly queue at the sweet counter while we men split into two groups, one taking up the four Gents urinal spaces while the other four of us chatted for five minutes about sundry coach trips until it was our turn.

Armed with various sized tubs of freshly-produced Werther’s Original, we headed back in, relieved to find the Romanians still at the front. As the familiar Werther’s crunch rattled through the air, a screen message beseeched us not to spoil others’ enjoyment by leaving mobiles on. Women foraged deep in handbags and men in pockets to retrieve phones.

‘It’s that silver knob on the side,’ said one woman, as her companion tried switching off his mobile, only to get successive, tinny renditions of Beethoven’s Fifth. I could see the light on another man’s phone coming back on as quickly as he turned it off, whilst the woman next to my friend was using a key-fob torch to browse an instruction booklet before poking randomly at a screen with a life of its own.

Now, with the movie taking hold, a glance along the row showed people at various angles Les Misof repose.The couple next to me were already away; the Family Bucket of Werther’s was sliding off my friend’s lap; and my eyes too were growing heavy. By the time a cropped Fantine was ‘dreaming her dream’, I barely noticed what must have been a minibus outing of Marge Simpson look-alikes slip silently into the row in front of us.

Paul Costello © March 2013

The story of how I can fall asleep anywhere is told in:

Utterly Undiscovered – comic Bed & Breakfast Memoir by Paul Costello.

Illustrated by Emma Hames.  Header image above from chapter titled: Caught Napping    

Publication:  spring 2013.    Fineleaf Editions 

ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2


Monsieur Costello va au bord de la mer

‘Vous parlez Français?’ says Jean-Yves after a hearty handshake.

‘Un peu,’ I say with the wide-eyed smile inculcated in me at American Convention-style training sessions – in Hackney.

‘Vous, Anglais?’ I say.

‘U-u-r-r …’ he says with raised shoulders and a palm-down swivel of the right hand.

‘The last skill you’ll need is speaking French,’ a colleague, Jetty Jones had assured me, having worked with the French-speaking Monaco team in the Olympic sailing a few weeks earlier. ‘They all want to practise their English.’

Except that is Jean-Yves, the Chef de Mission of the French Paralympic sailing team, who it seems doesn’t have much to practise. Jean-Yves cuts a grandfatherly figure and is utterly charming. And he is the man I shall be working for while the rest of the squad focuses on its real concern – sailing.

I’d spent three months revisiting the subject for which I got a ‘2’ at GCE, but which was thick with rust after half a century. Being offered a Games Maker role with the French delegation in Weymouth and Portland was a privilege, but could I cope with their mother tongue?

“Monsieur Dupont prend le petit déjeuner à sept heures, et part pour la gare où il achète un journal et une pomme.”

In Living French – Complete with CD borrowed from my local library, the lingo felt familiar despite the time lapse. Breakfast, newspaper, apple – this would be a cinch.

“Pierre était assis sur les rochers avec Madame Leblanc.” Rocks – that might be useful, what with being by the sea.

“Il a vu un homme dans un bateau de pêche.” Fishing, sailing – boats, just the same!

Armed with Jetty’s assurance and knowing I could make a real contribution when it came to men buying apples and women meeting friends in the park for coffee and cake while they watched pretty, green ducks, I was ready for action. Until, that is, Jean-Yves did the palm-down swivel. Bloomin’ French! The language I mean, not the people. The pressure was on.

Enter my French colleague Christine who’d lived in England for years and, like Jetty, had carried out the role of NPC (National Paralympics Committee) Assistant the month before – in her case with the French Olympic sailing team. To ensure Jean-Yves got the right support, we agreed she would be his main contact. For the next two weeks Christine translated at meetings, made transport arrangements and dealt with unexpected visits from French schoolchildren wanting to wish their heroes well, while I stood by like an apprentice waiting to pass the 15 mm spanner, ill-equipped to join in quick-fire conversation about sail measurement, registration of radios and the likely impact of a deep cyclone tracking through the Channel.

The pressure was off, but I needed to contribute more. On the second day, at coffee outside the team’s storage container, I slipped a banana onto the makeshift table, silently rehearsing what I’d practised to perfection in my B&B:

‘J’ai acheté cette banane dans l’épicerie à côté de la gare à sept heures trente ce matin.’

In spite of moving the banana from side to side and repeatedly glancing at Jean-Yves and the banana in turn, he didn’t take the bait. Nor did a personal approach bear fruit the following day. Jean-Yves seemed every bit a family man, so I casually left my wallet open when he and Christine were (I think) discussing the ballasting differentials of the 2.4 yacht being raced by Damien and the Sonar yacht of Bruno, Eric and Nicolas. As soon as Jean-Yves noticed the photo of my daughter Lily I was ready to say:

‘C’est ma fille Lily. Elle a seize ans. Elle vit dans un joli village où ils ont un boulanger, un boucher et un petit lac. Elle prend son petit déjeuner à huit heures avant d’aller à l’école, et prend toujours une pomme à manger plus tard.’

He never did. Despite freezing like rabbits in headlights when the other asked a question in his native language, Jean-Yves and I always managed a friendly smile, but our longest exchange was him pointing skywards and saying ‘vent’, which only led to a mutual chuckle and nod of the head, leaving me no wiser as to whether there was too much or too little wind for sailing.

After a few days I realised I was missing the point. And it was the Games Maker uniform that did it. From the first day I dressed up I’d felt proud to be one of seventy thousand volunteers chosen to represent Great Britain. The camaraderie and mutual respect between Games Makers reinforced this, as did drivers on the workforce shuttle buses who always offered a cheery: ‘Morning, how are you today?’

But I soon saw what the uniform also meant to those we were supporting. Each team had different needs. Singapore sought physical help preparing their boat, the Spanish wanted escorting to Weymouth to look around, the Danish liked domestic support at their house, and Jean-Yves looked for language and organising skills. But a common demand of athletes and officials across the twenty or so teams was simply for us to be there, in our conspicuous purple and scarlet, as a point of reference.

I forgot about contributing in the narrow way I’d expected, and helped however I could, displaying my uniform and wide-eyed smile with pride. Now I could detect the joy in a loud ‘Good morning!’ as the Japanese man and his wheelchair tore past down the slope like a seventeen year old in a Peugeot 106; I could feel the appreciation of a lone Argentinian whose boat trailer I helped push to the measuring sheds; and in the coffee queue I could share the frustration of a Brazilian sailor when zero wind meant no sailing.

In return I enjoyed the privilege of seeing dedicated athletes tend their boats, jumped at Jean-Yves’s invitation to follow races on a tracking screen in the athletes’ lounge, and basked in watching with the public from the ruins of Sandsfoot Castle. And it was utterly uplifting hearing Games Makers greeted in such glowing terms by athletes, crowds and the media.

Sailing finishes, with no medals for the French but a clear pride in taking part. The nine-man team lines up for the coach that will unite them with colleagues in London for the closing ceremony. I play down my joy at Helena winning gold for GB in the 2.4 class and Alexandra and Niki bronze in the Skud, but frankly my loyalties are divided after being attached to the French for so long.

As they board, there are air kisses and prolonged French farewells with Christine and a genuine handshake and ‘au revoir’ for me. Last in the queue is Jean-Yves who, outstanding manager that he is, courteously sees each colleague onto the coach first. He then takes me quietly to one side and with measured diction says:

‘This morning I got up at seven o’clock and walked to the beach. On the way I went to the shop with the little yellow door and bought a small bag of red apples. This one is for you. I shall eat two on the coach, and the rest I shall feed to the pretty, green ducks in London when I go to the park for coffee and cake. Goodbye Paul.’

‘Merci. Moi aussi, j’aime les pommes rouges,’ I say. ‘J’ai toujours deux kilos à la maison sur un plat bleu dans ma jolie cuisine. Au revoir Jean-Yves.’

Paul Costello © September 2012


Twitter:    @PaulCostello8